Advertising is Not Working (or Networking)

On a recent discussion on Ryze, John Veitch observed:

Those who think of Ryze as a place to “advertise” are not networking effectively. The advertising networks are popular, (lots of posts) but they are ineffective (very low readership).

Jill Slack-Henry replied with the following story that I think beautifully and articulately illustrates the all-too-common problem of people not understanding the difference between advertising and networking, and not understanding why the advertising approach doesn’t work in online communities:

I’ve seen the same thing happen with a few Yahoo Groups that I joined long ago.

Here’s an example.

One of the Yahoo Groups is for work-at-home moms. The group goes along with a web site that is set up to get leaders across the states to volunteer and they set up meetings in their towns. The meetings are meant to get the business owners together to get to know each other and have a presentation each month on something business-related that will help the business owners out. It’s not meant to be a time for folks to get together and try to recruit everyone to join their MLM, for example.

It’s a great idea to have these little groups across the country. The main web site gets some traffic, and interested folks are able to look up their city and see if there’s a group where the live. If so, they can visit. If not, they can start one without having to pay fees to the mother ship.

OK, back to the Yahoo Group.

Rather than using the Yahoo Group as a way to continue the dialogue, keep members pumped, point them to helpful articles or statistics or message board posts that would benefit these moms as they build their businesses, would you like to guess what the main activity of the Yahoo Group has become?

Ads are allowed on Tuesdays, so the only time there is ever any activity at all is when we’re bombarded with ads once a week.

That’s it.

Nothing helpful at all.

What’s crazy about this is these moms aren’t bothering to target their messages. The folks in the Yahoo Group already have a business. They’re already working on something. They’ve already invested money, time, energy, etc., into whatever they’re doing.

Spamming the group once a week isn’t going to make someone say, “Wow! Look at this! If I pay $100 by this deadline, I’ll get $15 worth of free candles. I’m going to chuck this business that I’ve been working on for five years and grab those candles. Yippeeeeee!”

They’re preaching to the choir. It’s a lazy way to go. If these moms seriously want to sign up more folks in their business, they need to get out there and find people who are interested in business but haven’t made a decision yet.

Of course, there are exceptions. Maybe someone is already in a business but they’re not happy with it. Maybe someone would like to add another biz to the mix — possibly a business that complements what they’re already doing.

But, for the most part, the Yahoo Group that I’m talking about (and I’m sure there are other similar examples) is full of moms who want to sign up more people under them in their MLM and that’s that.

What a waste!

I’m active in other message forums and Yahoo Groups where ideas are constantly being exchanged. There’s always a conversation going on. People are even willing to help out their competitors in some cases because it’s a way to help build their entire industry.

If your sole purpose is to advertise your business, people will see right through it. What works better is to use the old “Pay it forward” approach.

(Reprinted with permission)

Jill is a busy lady: a freelance journalist and regular contributing writer for Springfield Business Journal; owner of a lawn greetings rental service,; co-administrator for the International Lawn Greetings Association; and working toward a master of arts in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. She also blogs at

People like Jill couldn’t care less about hearing about another business opportunity. They’re looking for ways to save time, cut costs, attract more business and make more money. If your product or service helps her do that, once you get to know her, she might be interested in what you have to offer. But the relationship has to come first, and it has to be based on helping each other accomplish your goals. Who knows – you might even learn a thing or two from her, as well. 🙂