10 Ways to Use Social Media for Lead Generation and Nurturing
For some consumers, social networking sites have taken on personality traits that reflect who they may log in as and communicate with. Facebook might be a boyfriend. LinkedIn is a boss. Twitter is filled with acquaintances to say "hi" to in the hall.
So how can businesses relate well to their target audiences and generate leads in this virtual land of projected personalities? Answering that question are: Chris Koch, director of research and thought leadership at Lexington, Mass.-based Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) and Andrew Chang, marketing manager for Mountain View, Calif.-based LinkedIn. Chang is the marketing lead for the social networking site's advertising offering called LinkedIn DirectAds.
1. Drive customers to the company website. "If you look at ... Twitter, you'll see that most good tweets have a shortened link in them," Koch says. Driving consumers from an unquantifiable marketing channel to one where companies can start measuring and tracking more effectively will enable businesses to turn engagement into leads.
2. Give away as much content as possible. "I find that people assume that 99.9 percent of the time when you put a short link in one of your tweets that they're going to be able to get through [to] content that is available to them without having to do anything," Koch says. "Of course, this makes it difficult for lead generation. So what a lot of people are doing is ... stepping the offer. In other words, making something that's an excerpt of a white paper available ... without any kind of registration." That brings Koch to tip No. three.
3. Embed registration options in free content. Once visitors become intrigued by the free content, they'll be more willing to provide data for lead generation, Koch says. "For example, let them ... click right through to the excerpt from the white paper," he says. "But inside the white paper is a link to a landing page where they can go and they get the full white paper. In that case, you do have to pay for it ... with your name and your e-mail."
4. Understand the relationships people may have with different social networks, which then may guide how to relate to them. "Take advantage of the viral nature of Twitter," Koch advises. "I make a distinction between what I call a permission-based social media, like Facebook and LinkedIn that mimic the way we make relationships in real life—which is that I have to know you, I have to understand why you're relevant to me, I've hopefully had some kind of experience with you before, I will let you into my space. And Twitter really changes that, and there are other tools like Twitter that are changing this model and what I call the viral relationship model; meaning, I don't have to know you, I don't have to have a relationship with you, I can just search for you based on the content that you're producing and the interests that you're displaying through Twitter. ... Once you can examine what's going on in this viral network, your possibilities for expanding your relationships are greatly increased. And I think that's really relevant for lead generation."
5. Think of existing customers as leads, too. Upselling to existing customers may be easier to do in social media if companies instead think of it as lead nurturing. People on these networks are learning from each other, as well as performing their own research. "What marketers are telling us is that private, gated online communities are the most effective social media tools that they're seeing," Koch says. "And so, by hosting this environment, you can obviously observe their behavior and get a sense of when someone who is a customer is becoming a lead for something else that you want to sell."
6. Put social media links and icons in marketing messages in other channels. Chang says having an icon on direct mail or a linked icon in e-mail footers is a good way to direct leads to, for instance, company profiles or a specific professional's profile.
7. Have social networking site profiles filled out and accounts regularly updated with relevant content. Chang says having information ready before consumers seek it out makes companies look good. Plus, consumers are able to actually find the information when they search on the site.
8. Initiate conversations with prospects. Business development executives and salespeople may want to work up a list of prospects on a particular social network, then contact them directly through the site, Chang says.
9. Consider placing advertisements on social networking sites. Chang cites the case of a LinkedIn DirectAds customer. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Piscataway, N.J.-based organization for technology professionals, "wanted to generate leads for their organization. They're already using other online advertising channels for lead gen, but their agency ... recommended LinkedIn DirectAds as another source of leads because many of our members are high-tech professionals—the perfect audience for IEEE."
By placing its ads next to the profiles of LinkedIn members it wanted to reach, IEEE brought high-quality visitors to its site and saw them convert at three times the rate of the normal site visitors, Chang says.
10. Know that social media may represent a sort of bookend for the buying cycle—with consumers seeking it out at the beginning and end—so provide thought leadership that may aid in decision-making, Koch says.