Ask a Madman: Does Social Media Really Work for Generating Business?

I’m a web designer and I need more clients. Does social media really work for drumming up business? 

Social media, if done correctly, works for anyone! The web is essentially a big free-for-all of advertising and marketing and you should certainly take advantage of it. But that caveat “if done correctly” is the key to successful and productive client generation. 

how to build networks, social networking

Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest are just a few of the leading avenues to get your name and work out there. The first step is to plan what you want to share with your audience and prospective clients. The next step is figuring out which social media tools will fit your needs and which ones you can dedicate time to on a regular basis. Building a strong social network isn’t difficult, but it does take time. 

Let’s look at all the social media tools available and you can decide what best fits your needs. 


Twitter is currently the hub of all social media. As I once explained to a client, it’s like “a billboard on the information highway you drive past at 70 miles per hour.”

Maybe that’s too simple of an analogy. Even without many followers, by using hashtags (like #webdesign, #technology, #smallbusiness), you can reach out to a wide audience of fellow twits, tweeters—whatever we’re called—and join conversations. Posting images and links to Twitter and sharing your expertise will draw traffic to your website. 

One thing to remember when it comes to Twitter followers: quality over quantity. It’s not a race or competition. Spammers and useless tweets will just clog up your feed and keep you from seeing the tweets that are really important to you. 


The premier business networking site, LinkedIn is very much like Facebook but with all your coworkers instead of your high school friends and weird relatives. By joining groups, you can connect to prospective clients and improve your clout by posting discussions on these groups. As you build your own network, you’re also accumulating second- and third-degree connections exponentially. I’m a great believer in connecting with everyone, because even former coworkers who never refilled the coffee pot are valuable as they move around the industry.

It’s a captive audience there to do business, so it’s highly recommended for businesses but there is one thing to remember—connect with those who can use your design skills. I’ve found it’s best to concentrate on small- to medium-sized businesses for freelance work. If you’re looking for a staff position, doing LinkedIn company search will show you people in that company. Connecting with people who work where you want to work can give you an in when a position opens.


Facebook is a misunderstood social media tool. Personally, I just use it to stay connected with friends. But it can easily be used for business, because your friends, family and former coworkers are your most important network. They care about you because you have a personal connection. If you need a job, have something to offer, need an introduction or want the 411 on an opening in a company for which they work, they will be there for you more than any other connection through the web. 

Does having a fan page or setting up Facebook ads do anything for creative businesses? According to Facebook stats, it should be lucrative, but everyone I know who’s tried the approaches hasn’t reported much luck. 


One of the newest social media kids on the block, Pinterest really took off in 2012. By pinning your best work on curated boards, you can share your style with the world—and they can share it with all their friends easily! But Pinterest has a terms of service policy you might not like. Read the TOS carefully, and decide whether you’re willing to go for it. If you don’t mind the possibility of a third-party being able to license your work, then the ease of use and SEO of your albums make this a viable marketing tool. 


The jury is still out on this social network by search goliath Google. Many people predicted it would kill Facebook, but Facebook is still going strong, and there have been plenty of complaints about how the circles on G+ work, with lots of concerns about privacy since public G+ posts can pop up in search results now. But that could be a boon for a creative business. I don’t think Google+ is worthless, but is hasn’t yet proven itself as a truly important social network in any circles aside from hardcore techies. 

Put it all together

The old saying “you can’t be everywhere at once” also applies to social networking. It’s one thing if you have a design studio and can hire a full-time social media manager, but when it’s only you doing your assignments, bookkeeping, client contact, advertising and marketing, you need to plan your social media outreach carefully by considering which sites are frequented by your prospective clients and which channels you can keep up on a regular basis. It’s better to have one really effective outreach venue then to have six that do nothing.

2 thoughts on “Ask a Madman: Does Social Media Really Work for Generating Business?

  1. cre8ivetype

    Another terrific article full of great advice and insight! HOW should make “Ask a MAD Man” a daily feature (weekly, at least).

    Looking forward to the next installment from you.