As business marketers, we feel obligated to participate in social media. But beyond the basics of setting up a Facebook page and Twitter profile, marketers are still finding ways to measure results. While some believe the intangible benefits of having a voice for your brand engaged in various social media channels is reward enough, other marketing departments need to provide the CMO and CEO with a more quantifiable answer. The best way to accomplish this is by demonstrating the value social media brings to lead generation. Not just lead quantity (volume), but lead quality (scoring) and conversion rates. However, truth be told, tracking business leads from social media is neither straightforward nor easy. It requires a serious investment in time and/or technology to get it right.
This Place We Call Social Media
Social media is a seemingly cluttered landscape with numerous vendors and customers vying for attention and voicing their opinions in 140 characters or less (in the case of Twitter). The origin of social media, which gained popularity with consumers, remains a space dominated by a collection of many individuals and few businesses. Admittedly, the challenge of reaching B2B customer prospects via social media is definitely more challenging than reaching individuals or consumers. Generating even one qualified business lead against this noisy backdrop may look and feel impossible.
Ironically, the very noise of this environment can play into your favor. Although many companies are using social media, only a handful of them are using it effectively to actually engage in a meaningful dialogue with their audience.
The key is to match a call-to-action with a state of mind, so you can properly engage customers -- businesses or individual consumers -- and move them through the purchase cycle. For example, a call-to-action on a blog post should match the visitor's state of mind. Start with the simple assumption that visitors to a blog post are not there to buy the company's product or sign up for a free account (at least, initially). Rather, they are there to read interesting content or learn more about the space. Therefore, the call-to-action should match that state of mind and prompt the visitor to "learn more" or "download a white paper." These types of call-to-action align with the visitor's reasons for visiting your Web site and are more likely to convert a visitor to a lead.
Social Media Takes it Personally
The biggest difference between social media and traditional media is the level of personalization. Social media is highly personal and interactive -- it's a two-way, interactive form of communication in real time. Traditional media is not.
In addition to being a more personalized communication medium, social media leads are more targeted than those generated through other online channels. This is a major bonus for marketers. If a call-to-action is strong, it can do an amazing job of bringing in solid leads.
If the channel and activity align, meaning you are using activities that are appropriate to the channel you are using, leads tend to be more engaged and thus more enthusiastic about a given product or service. As a result, leads involved in social media outreach tend to be more forgiving of problems with your product, as they feel more connected to the product and the company.
At the same time, social media opens up feedback channels and discussion loops that are muted or not present at all in traditional media. For example, if customers are disappointed in a particular product or service, social media provides equal opportunity to spread their own messages in their own words. Some control will be forfeited. This introduces new risks not associated with traditional media, as the reputation of your brand now rests in other people's hands.. These effects on a brand, both positive and negative, are often said to be hard to track and measure.
Better Business Leads
The bottom line is that social media has the potential to generate more business leads. These leads are more targeted and they know what they want. If your call-to-action is relevant and aligned with your message, leads generated from social media can be highly qualified. On the other hand, as with traditional marketing, some leads from social media will be less qualified and require more lead nurturing. The key, as a marketer, is to establish a set of objective criteria and automated lead scoring that can help sales distinguish a "hot lead" from a cold one once they hit your site.
Consider the following six suggestions to begin capturing stronger, more qualified leads.
Six Tips for Generating Business Leads from Social Media:
1. Think like publishers:
- Break through the noise and get people interested in what you have to offer.
- Choose unique, eye-catching headlines and titles, and incorporate good images.
- Content is the bait. If you don't make content sound and look good, no one will read it.
2. Create good, interesting content:
- Social media with no content is like a bicycle without a wheel: You'll put a lot of effort into riding, but you will go nowhere.
- Again, content is the bait.
3. Organize your efforts into campaigns:
- Campaigns are easier as a way to create and shape the right message and call-to-action.
- Enable easy tracking and monitoring.
- Can be measured and analyzed as a learning tool for future activities.
4. Invest the time to make a campaign
- Social media takes time. It might be cheaper in dollars spent, but it's definitely not free in terms of time invested.
- Use time management tools to track and measure the time you invest in social media, so you can truly measure your ROI.
5. Track and score your visits and leads:
- Qualify and score leads accurately to ensure the best conversion rates.
- Focus and align marketing and sales and force a discussion about what constitutes a good lead.
- Help with analyzing and prioritizing efforts.
- Focus on channels and campaigns that offer a higher lead quality based on your lead scores.
6. Measure and report in real time for ongoing success:
- Prioritize your efforts and invest the time in the places with the highest payoff.
- Measure based not just on quantity, but based on quality too.
- Track all the way to a sale, not just to a lead. This will help you refine your lead score and truly measure ROI.
Is social media going to disappear into the background after the hype winds down, or is it here to stay? This author's opinion is that social media is not just a fad that will go away --it has become a significant marketing channel that can drive leads and increase revenue. Don't be consumed by the hype and forget all your other channels; marketing is a mix, and social media is only one component.