As many have said, people were social long before there was social media. So when it comes to using social media for lead generation, let's not reinvent the wheel. Successful strategies remain effective. But, even the most successful strategies suffer from the inherent problem that lead generation is impersonal -- we just don't know who our prospective customers are, since we haven't met them yet. What's new is that social media platforms now allow us to become far more personal, sooner, in our customer recruitment efforts.
Social media is full of customers voicing a problem and/or requesting help. So, lead generation starts by monitoring relevant platforms for prospects seeking help. Nothing says, "I'm there for you," like actually being there when someone needs information, product assistance or advice. The key is immediacy and providing relevant information right when it is requested. Where else and how else can businesses monitor and engage with so many consumers in real time?
Comcast is a legendary practitioner of this craft. A Comcast representative often responds to complaints on Twitter in less than five minutes and attempts to initiate a customer service resolution. The result of these efforts is that even though the company may catch flack for cable and phone service interruptions, customers stay with Comcast because they feel like they're being heard. I should know -- I've tried it!
Another way to attract new customers is by recruiting consumers who are on the verge of defecting from your competitors. Monitor social media communications for keywords surrounding your competitors (and if you can monitor sentiment, even better). If someone expresses a negative experience, swoop in with some good will and competitive differentiation, inviting the customer to have a better experience with you. For example, Steve Goble, VP of marketing communications at Annex Brands -- parent company for the PostalAnnex+ franchise -- uses this technique to develop customers and provide solutions when its competitor, the Post Office, falls short.
Social media customer loyalty programs are also effective in lead generation. For the most part, customer loyalty programs reward folks who are already customers. That's fine, but it doesn't grow your customer base. What does grow your customer base is getting current customers to organically encourage friends to patronize your business. To do this effectively, aim your customer loyalty programs at stimulating word of mouth endorsement. Executing this idea will be different for every business, but the key is to make sure the process matches your customers' priorities.
For example, if you're an organic grocery store, use social media to promote a program offering 25 cents off the grocery bill for every pound of recyclables customers bring in when they shop; then offer an additional 50 cents off for re-tweeting the message or sharing the URL. This year, Einstein Bagels ran a well-publicized campaign on Facebook, offering coupons for free bagels. Not only did the company's Facebook fans skyrocket from 4,700 to 613,703, but according to James O'Reilly, Chief Concept Officer at Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, "The Facebook initiative drove visits among new consumers and also [increased visits] among existing consumers." (as quoted in the magazine Franchise Times).
Customers have always been attracted to businesses that solve problems and make us feel good. And now, social media provides a more efficient means of reaching prospects just when they are most interested in your business. The potential reach of every interaction on social media is limitless - so look for opportunities for interaction, get personal, solve problems, and watch your lead funnel grow!