This isn’t a fun post for me to write. I received a whack upside the head from the stupid stick recently and thought I would share what I learned, so you don’t have it happen to you.

As Dr. John says, “I was in the right place, but it must have been the wrong time.”

I am talking about marketing my services almost exclusively on social media. I have spent A LOT of time giving, sharing, and interacting. I have a GREAT presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. And it has done some great things for my business: I have met business partners, mentors, and influencers.

Social media has enabled me to create a presence as a thought leader and expert – but I rarely get leads for potential clients from social media.

Like most small business owners, I am looking to generate more leads. I do get frequent referrals from past clients but I need more. Feeling a little slow, I realized that my ideal clients, for the most part, aren’t ON social media. They probably have a LinkedIn profile but some of them haven’t even had that. It boggles my mind but it’s the truth.

So the reason I haven’t been able to find the water cooler conversations of my ideal clients that I could plug in to was because I was in the wrong place. (Doh!) And don’t talk to me about LinkedIn discussion groups. The ones I found seemed to be a bunch of people looking for prospects with very few prospects looking for people to help them.

I recently gave one of my signature talks Re-Launch You: Liftoff After Layoff for a group of financial industry executives in career transition. A small group of professionals in their 40s and 50s were in the audience. It looked like it was going to be a tough crowd for a talk that addresses having the right mindset, and the icky emotional parts of job search. But it wasn’t a tough crowd at all.

In fact, they were a terrific audience. They were engaged, asked questions, and came up to talk to me after. In fact, about half of them connected with me on LinkedIn the same day, and many took me up on my offer to review their resume, job search strategy, and LinkedIn profile. Talk about time well spent! It was a room full of my ideal clients.

Honestly, I feel like an idiot. Clearly my ideal clients tend to be meeting face-to-face at networking meetings like this one. They probably aren’t looking for help online, at least not primarily. They may not even know that the type of coaching I do exists outside of an outplacement firm.

When I coach my solo consulting business owners, I always ask them where their ideal clients congregate. I have asked myself the same question and have tried so many ways to find my folks online, but hands-down the best way for me to get leads is to speak to job search networking groups and other groups.

The good news is that I love to do it. And the prospects I find are impressed with my social media presence and thought leadership, once I have showed it to them. So maybe it helps me to close business, but not generate the quantity of leads I need to sustain my business.

Social media may be the right place for me to get leads in the future, but now seems to be the wrong time.

So what do you think? Have you been able to generate leads directly from social media? Is it just amplification for your brand and your thought leadership? I would love to hear about your experiences.