We are well passed the assumptive phase that that the majority of businesses choose to include a social media strategy as part of their overall marketing. According to an EConsultancy study, 64 percent of businesses now see social as a major part of their programs and consider themselves past the “experimental phase.” A large percentage of these businesses, especially ones that have bigger marketing budgets and people to support each individual marketing initiative, will actually hire someone just to manage the social aspects of each campaign.
Yet few businesses have mastered turning their social channels into a tool for their lead funnels. In fact 41 percent of those surveyed for the same study said they still don’t have definitive ROI for their social programs. Evidently, social feels good, but there are still too many question marks as to how to turn that Google+ business page into a starting point for new leads.
Yet few businesses have mastered turning their social channels into a tool for their lead funnels.
Now, with marketing automation becoming the buzz phrase du jour, everyone is asking: How to tie this back to social or vice versa? The good news is this isn’t another layer in an already confusing landscape. It’s actually doable, and, it’ll help propel your entire social strategy.
Create a roadmap to interest: Don’t be desperate
How often have you been asked to “follow” or “like” a business? Sometimes you’re actually given a reason to hit the like button. Perhaps there’s a coupon, or a chance to win a prize. Sometimes you’re just asked to follow for no reason other than to be connected to a brand you allegedly love (based of course on your online behavior that’s been aptly targeted). It’s hit or miss, isn’t it? Much like email marketing. You probably receive about 100 or more email marketing pieces delivered to your inbox each week, but you only open a select few. Social media isn’t very different, so when facing your own social media plan, consider that connecting with an interest base needs to be planned out and not something you just do for the fun of it—or rather, because you think you have to.
There are different reasons why people will come to your social media sites. The Society for New Communications Research studied how professionals use social media and found that “access to thought leadership content is now the number one reason why professionals visit networks and communities.”
How about consumers? Well, they are starting to become a tougher crowd. A Gartner report on social media shows that consumers are becoming a little disenchanted with social media:
Branded content needs to be kept fresh and must be able to capture people’s attention instantly. The new generation of consumers is restless and short on attention span, and a lot of creativity is needed to make a meaningful impact.
Using this knowledge, start with the basics. What makes your product or service cool? If you had an open forum to talk with your customers casually, what would that conversation look like? Consider how you can convert that initial interest into pipeline.
For instance, if you’re a BtoB company, your most likely prospects in the social sphere are probably not coming to your LinkedIn page for a coupon or to hear about your latest press release. They want content that’s going to make it easier for them to do their job, preferably using your product or service. They want to be presented with conversations they can sink their teeth into, and information that they can put to use. Start with that content base before worrying about the leads that will come of it.
- Make the Technology Your Friend
Most Marketing Automation platforms have some form of integration into popular social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages so you can use them to share content across those mediums. There is no excuse anymore to not make the connection. This means that once your organization has collected critical information about a prospect you can actually “mash-up” demographic and firmographic info through popular data sources.
The next step is to mine your growing base of followers and pull the most relevant into your funnel. Don’t just grab everyone who “likes” your page, that’s misleading, lazy, and will have your sales team chasing down leads that aren’t meant to be. Instead, have someone take the time to research new followers every week and slot them into the funnel accordingly. It’s more than okay to leave many of them out or peg them to revisit at a later date.
- Use Mediums That Work
When thinking beyond engagement and into lead acquisition, the content being offered should be designed to drive fans and followers directly into your funnel automatically whenever possible. The question then becomes, what kind of content is going to act as the best bait in a social setting? Hint: not a whitepaper. The whitepaper hook is great on a trade website where prospects are looking for education. Or even in an email campaign. If you’re a BtoC company try surveys, games, videos—you know, fun stuff. Then tie in a link to a piece of content that expands on the messaging, preferably a piece you can track for usage.
Lead acquisition and nurturing is about letting your brand be a magnet for prospects, getting them into your pipeline, and using their social behavior to drive how you nurture them.
For BtoB, one example of social success is the communication of trends and breaking news. Salesforce.com pulled off probably the best-calculated social PR campaign following Benioff’s exclusion from Oracle World a few months ago. They were able to lead their social followers back to a video talk they put on and provided a great channel to allow a video of that event to live forever.
- Follow Them, Too
Understanding the social behavior of your newfound prospects is key to making this form of lead nurturing successful. Use your marketing automation and CRM systems to keep track the types of social media content that interest these particular prospects and respond with similar messaging both inside and outside of the social sites.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you identify a group of prospects on your company’s LinkedIn page who tend to favor video content. They view it when you post it (and you know this because you’re using trackable video tools like Vimeo or NextSlide), they share and re-tweet yours and/or other video content, and perhaps they’re even posting their own video content on their sites. This should be noted in your lead funnel. Now you can schedule video content to be delivered to them through your other marketing channels.
We always talk about working backwards—here we are again. Too many organizations feel they aren’t seeing ROI around social. For 60 percent of businesses, the success of their social strategy is measured by the number of fans, followers, and likes. Getting people to follow your Twitter page isn’t very hard, and if you task your CMO with achieving this feat, he or she will easily go out and do it. If instead you tell them to boost leads by 15 percent through social channels, that’s a whole different ballgame—one that doesn’t have a lot to do with how many people “like” you.
It may be a while before you can directly tie leads back to tweets. And you shouldn’t be watching that pot waiting for it to boil anyway. Lead acquisition and nurturing is about letting your brand be a magnet for prospects, getting them into your pipeline, and using their social behavior to drive how you nurture them. If you are already adding every person who follows you on Twitter into your lead funnel, try this exercise: tally the total number of net new leads brought into your funnel through a social channel. Now see how many of those leads actually score high enough to qualify as a lead worthy to pass over to sales (be honest). That’s a metric that shows social media value and it’s very easy to do with just about any marketing automation software.
Just like any other kind of marketing, there’s no magic bullet here. Using social channels to acquire leads will take time and it will take thought. Those willing to invest the minimal amount of both will reap the benefits, and they’ll be able to say they count more than just likes as proof of success.