The following guest post is by Jep Castelein, Principal Consultant at LeadSloth. LeadSloth generates sales-ready leads for B2B technology companies with inbound marketing and marketing automation services.
What is the most important goal of social media in a B2B context? If you ask me, I’d say lead generation. Especially in today’s economic climate, getting in touch with potential clients is the lifeblood of any company. But how can you leverage social media to get more leads without blatantly shouting out your announcements and ruining your online reputation?
Join the Community
Social media is organized around common interests. As an individual you connect with your professional contacts on LinkedIn. On Twitter you follow people with similar interests. If you want to leverage these online communities for your business, you need to be a valued community member too. The easiest way to become valued is to present some new insights.
Content, Content, Content
So first you have to figure out what is interesting for your target audience. Invest some time to become a member of the community. First listen in, then ask questions, and only then create your content: an online event, an e-book, a trial version of a software package, or whatever your target group is excited about. Because you want to generate leads, you should make it so good that people want to register for it. So forget about re-purposing that sales presentation.
So you know the relevant communities and you’ve created something that they want. Now it’s time to start using social media to promote your content. What kind of results can you expect? Jame-Ane Ervin reports a 400% increase in conversions by using social media. Parker Trewin at Genius.com, a marketing automation software company, told me that the leads that come in from social media are highly qualified with 24% converting to sales opportunities. So let’s zoom in on what you can do for lead generation via blogging, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Your blog should be about topics that interest your potential clients. You’ll gain a steady readership by publishing regularly, and by having a common theme in all the posts. For details, read Jeff Cohen’s excellent post about business blogging best practices. Once you have a loyal audience, write a blog post about your new content, with a link to the registration page. Always include a clear call to action at the bottom of older blog posts. See the B2B Communications Blog for an example. Because blog readers are already interested in what you do, this call to action does magic for lead generation. You will get lots of registrations from your blog readers.
Twitter is getting more popular every day. That’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s great that the audience is growing, but the average Twitter user has a hard time actually reading all those tweets. So you need a lot of tweets to get the word out.
The first strategy is to schedule tweets for times that many people read Twitter, usually on weekdays when the West Coast comes online. You can use tools like Hootsuite to do the actual scheduling. Second, send out a promotional tweet every day, but with a different text. Different people respond to different call-to-actions. If you want to reach people who don’t follow you, include relevant keywords or hashtags. Experienced Twitter users will search for those terms.
Another powerful strategy is to encourage retweets, which is when another user re-posts your short message on Twitter. First of all, you should not use the full 140 characters, because your own twitter name will be included in a retweet. So make sure to subtract the number of characters of your Twitter name. If some of your coworkers are Twitter users, make sure they retweet the corporate tweets. And if you have friends on Twitter, direct message them and ask for a retweet. But only do this on an occasional basis for a message that is important. Of course, make sure you regularly retweet their tweets too! And you will find that regular readers and followers will also retweet your messages.
By building your Twitter following, providing value and by using the above tactics, you will drive much more traffic to your registration page. This results in an increased number of leads that first heard about your offering via Twitter.
The benefit of LinkedIn is that it is a business-focused social network, so it’s usually a source of very qualified leads. For a great overview of how to promote your business on LinkedIn, see Kristen Luke’s presentation on SlideShare.
Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit: update your LinkedIn status regularly, and ask your coworkers to do the same. These status updates are shown on your profile and emailed to everyone in your network. To reach new people, post your announcement in relevant LinkedIn Groups. Or even better, while you are creating your content, ask questions about what the group members want to learn. You could even consider creating your own LinkedIn Group, but only do this when you can get at least a couple of hundred members.
If you’re organizing an event (like a webinar), register it as a LinkedIn event. It shows the webinar on your profile, it’s listed in the event directory, and you can actively invite people from your network to attend the webinar (all from within LinkedIn).
Lesser known LinkedIn features are Answers and Polls. In Answers you can ask questions, or answer them. Consider asking a question to solicit feedback on your draft content and include a link to the registration page. If you answer other questions, use a signature that promotes your event. Polls are relatively new. You can use them to draw attention to the main topic of your content. For example, you can ask: “Do you use social media for lead generation?”. You get both exposure for your content, and you get results that you can incorporate in your materials.
So LinkedIn works two ways for lead generation. It helps you find out what is interesting for you audience AND you can promote your offer.
There are plenty of traditional ways to do lead generation: list rentals, pay-per-click advertising, lead gen programs with magazines, and many more. And don’t forget to email the people in your own database. Those are not new leads, but a little nurturing is usually a good idea. Social media a great addition to the promotional mix to reach people where they gather. Nowadays people gather online using social media, so that’s where you also need to be. I can’t guarantee that you will also get a 400% increase in leads like Jame-Ane, but my suggestions will give a healthy boost to your lead generation efforts.
Please let me know your questions, or share your experiences with social media lead generation in the comments below.