Biz Features

Handshakes and Cold Calling Aren’t Dead – Why Overreliance on Social Media Is a Mistake For Small Businesses

by . March 3rd, 2012

Online social media is here to stay, no doubt about it. Few developments in the past 20 years have been as useful to small businesses. Whether it’s for getting sales leads, sourcing better suppliers, or finding fresh talent, social media has given small businesses everywhere a much wider reach than was ever previously possible. But social media does have its drawbacks.


Facebook Cat

Even the most up-to-minute social media platforms tend to be passive, in that recipients can choose to ignore anything you send their way. This is actually the rule, rather than the exception.

Studies show that on personal Facebook accounts, your posts actually seen by only 16% of your contacts. Seen. If they just see your post but don’t otherwise interact with it, you’re not even sure if they actually even saw it. For commercially-oriented Facebook Pages, we could very safely assume that the response rates are much lower.

Same thing applies with other platforms. Nobody really follows every single tweet they get. Very few people obsessively hang on to every single share they get over LinkedIn or Google+. Also, when was the last time you put off answering an email, or totally ignored it? Exactly.

Old School Techniques Still Work!

While social media lets you cast a very wide net, the holes on that net can be pretty big. For a business that’s just starting out, old-school methods like cold calls and physically hoofing it door-to-door are probably more effective. If you’re targeting a local market, it’s the only way to start.

Alexander Graham Bell with the first telephone
To be honest, I hate making cold calls. But apart from actually meeting people personally, I’ve never found a social media tool that could help me get useful responses faster. Useful because the recipient has to tell you right away whether they’re interested or not- you won’t be left hanging.

If you just sent an email, it might get ignored or even go straight to their junk mail folder. If you used any other social media tool, your message might get ignored or get lost in all the clutter.

Best part is, even if you just reach a receptionist or a secretary, they’re likely to pass on the fact that you called for something. Even them just passing on the fact that you exist can be crucial for small businesses just trying to get a leg up.

Cold calling can also be incredibly efficient. If you compiled a well-targeted call list, and you’ve developed a good script, you can call a prospect and get their answer within a matter of seconds. And you can go through around 200-300 calls in a few hours –I know, because I’ve done that for a living.

As another plus, these interactions also help you gauge things about your prospect that you would not be able to on social media. You won’t be left wondering if they were actually interested (or if they even saw or heard your pitch) as would be the case with most social media platforms.

Brush Up On Your People Skills!

In the end, nothing beats face-to-face interactions for qualitative assessments of your prospects. And if nothing else, it’s the best way to build trust, with phone calls a close second. After all it’s hard to trust someone over Facebook or Twitter. This is where a good business card would come in handy.

They’re NOT just for leaving your contact details. These will represent you and your business, so design them carefully- and appropriately. Divorce lawyers that use Comic Sans and glitter graphics on their business cards probably won’t be getting too many clients, after all.


Scene from Homer the Vigilante (1994), S4EP11

Obligatory link explaining bad handshakes.

Social media is now indispensible for reaching contacts. But you will be making a huge mistake if you don’t integrate tried-and-tested methods such as personal networking and cold-calls as part of a bigger strategy.


Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.