HOW TO: Use social media to generate leads

Social media allows you to get close to your customers, but to use it for lead generation Simon McEvoy, planning director at Tangent Snowball offers these six tips

The sheer volumes of data generated every minute on social media make the job of finding meaningful insights ever more challenging. However, one of the most exciting aspects of the ‘socialisation’ of data for B2B marketers is the opportunities it opens in the prospecting space.

Social media allows businesses to find people who are talking on topics related to their product or service, and engage with them in a friendly, trust-building way. You can drive new leads back to your business, position yourself as an expert in your field and gain new insights on how you should develop and sell your products. But as with any lead generation activity, it’s vital to have a few things established before getting started:

1. Perform a quick audit
Are people talking about you or your product already? Who are they and what are they saying? What are your competitors doing? Where is the conversation happening?

All of this can help define your overall strategic approach and feed into the next few steps so it’s important to do it first. This can take weeks if done thoroughly, but even a few days spent examining the landscape will be hugely beneficial. There are plenty of tools around, from free ones such as Social Mention, Twitter’s own search or enterprise level analytics such as Brandwatch. You could also outsource this activity to an agency.

2. Define your target audience
For some businesses, particularly very traditional ones, the online audience may be different to your wider audience. If you already operate in places like Facebook then its analytics will give you some great stats on the demographic breakdown of your social audience.

However, if you’re going from a standing start then define who you want to target, based on your audit, and be prepared to fine-tune it as you go along. Important considerations are age and gender, but also examine online habits. For example, do they like to contribute, share or just consume information?

3. What conversation topics are you going to ‘own’?
This is crucially important as you want to become an expert in your field, not a babble of irrelevant noise. Think about what your target audience wants to hear and what’s important to them.

4. Decide which channels are right for you
Different channels have different pros and cons so it’s important to know how to get the best out of them. For example:

  • LinkedIn allows you to network through people you already know and see how many connections away you are from your target customers. LinkedIn ‘answers’ gives you a great opportunity to be helpful and knowledgeable, while hosting groups on particular topics can position you and your business at the centre of a thriving network. As it is a business community members are more tolerant of being pitched at – although still tread carefully as you can be removed for being ‘spammy’.
  • Twitter is a great place to engage quickly and easily around topics related to your business. Many businesses also use it for customer service due to its quick, asynchronous nature, or for posting time-sensitive offers and promotions.
  • Facebook is not traditionally a B2B prospecting environment, but using it judiciously can add colour and depth to your brand. It can allow you to be a ‘friend’ to your clients, link to interesting web content, share funny videos that relate to your brand or be a place to host pictures. However, remember that it’s a place where people go to socialise and unwind, not to be sold to.
  • Google+ is important because Google factors activity and presence into search rankings, so a large, active presence on Google+ will lead to higher rankings over time.
  • Others that are worth consideration include Quora and Yahoo Answers; Q&A based communities that allow you to provide useful information to prospects in an informal environment. Plus, YouTube is a great place to host video as it ranks incredibly well in Google.

5. What is your ‘tone of voice’?
Think about how you want to come across in the social space. Funny and irreverent? Useful and sincere? Informative and interesting? Remember you are trying to get a lead-generating conversation started, but you should tread softly.

Develop a sales funnel, where the first few messages get people interested in the conversation, then perhaps gently direct people to your website or a meeting where real selling can begin.

6. How will you measure success?
Obviously leads are a great way to measure success, but make sure you can attribute the lead back to the social prospecting – you don’t want to warm a lead in social only to attribute it to the call centre or website because that’s where the final deal was done.

Think about softer measures, such as share of voice or quality of responses. Also, avoid getting bogged down in crude, misleading measures such as ‘number of followers’. You’d rather talk to 10 people who were genuine prospects and interested in what you had to say, than with 3000 time wasters, trolls and spam-bots.

Simon McEvoy has also contributed to our Data Best Practice Guide, download the free summary now

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