The following article is a guest contribution from Frans Van Hulle, CEO of ReviMedia.
There are three truths: One, people like social media. Two, people constantly find new stuff through social media. Three, by being present on social media, companies will automatically tap into an infinite resource of interested customers. Sounds about right?
It’s no secret that Social Media is a great way of communicating with existing and potential new customers. But many companies make the mistake of thinking that simply by having a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus or Pinterest account, high-quality leads with high conversions will automatically appear. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work out most of the times.
Social Media is certainly a great tool for branding, to drive traffic to your site, to learn about your audience or get feedback from customers. In fact, social media can really support your lead generation practices. The reason why so many companies fail at successfully generating leads through social media channels is that they underestimate the time it takes to set up a social media strategy, and to look at social media as a direct lead gen channel, when it’s actually more indirect.
The first question you should ask yourself is how exactly social media can serve you. What is your goal? Do you want to attract partners or website visitors, or perhaps subscribers? Be clear about what your goals are and think realistically about how social media can help in attaining these goals. If your goal is to get 10 000 website visitors a day and you have 10 000 followers on Twitter, is it realistic that all of them will visit your website every day? It’s important to be realistic about what social media can deliver.
Connect, Follow, Add
The most important thing to understand about social media is that it’s all about being part of a community of interest. If you are on LinkedIn, you will most likely connect with your professional peers. On Twitter, you will probably follow people who have the same interests or work in the same field. It’s not just important what you have to say, but also who you want to be heard by. That’s why there is merit in investing time into finding contacts or interest groups you want to associate yourself with. An example for a great tool for this is Twitter Search that lets you find keywords people are mentioning in their tweets. Finding the right audience, will automatically connect you with people who are looking for you!
Once you have connected with your target audience, find out what they are interested in and which kind of problems they need solutions for. This means, “listen” more than you “speak”. Being too direct or too commercial can cause more damage than you think. Social Media should not be used as a distribution channel for your sales presentation. Instead, look at social media as a perfect tool to find your target audience, to stay abreast of emerging trends and developments, or to get feedback on how to improve your products and services. Listening is an important part in your social media strategy and will help you to find methods to introduce your products or services without irritating your audience.
Content is King
A great way to do this is to focus on good content. Once you have gauged what your audience is interested in, offer your community thought leadership and targeted content. Whether it’s a webinar, an event, an article or a technical solution to a problem, always create good, useful content. Social media is not always about you and your products, but engaging users more subtly and indirectly. Involve users around certain content, indirectly related to your products and make offers or promotions once you already have established yourself within the social media realm. For example: If you are a pet insurance company, build up a page about pets and pet health tips and make offers once you have engaged users. Moreover, you can dare to be funny, educational, opinionated or provocative. This kind of content will more likely be shared because it is simply more appealing.
If you want others to share what you have to say and to stay interested in what you are doing, interact. This means: Like, Re-tweet, give thanks, comment and share. It’s also important to ask and answer as many questions as you can to find out about your audience. Include links to your website or to specific content that helps users. Engaging with followers through social media channels will help you to foster good brand reputation and help you to stay relevant. Another great way to interact and lure in new contacts is to ask open-ended questions, create promotions or contests to attract new contacts.
Don’t run and hide
One of the worst things you can do is to set up a Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook account and never do anything with it. A few tweets every couple of months will not do it. Social media is a powerful tool in lead generation, but it requires commitment. Likewise, if you have extreme privacy settings, people will not be able to find you and what you offer, so at least include a link to your website and a phone number into your profile.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that social media is not a separate marketing channel that is somehow detached from your other marketing activities. A lead that was generated through social media does not necessarily guarantee high conversion. Sales conversions still depend on your sales team and your customer service. Therefore, one of the most important things is to have a strategy in place on how to convert social media leads into sales.
About The Author
Frans Van Hulle, CEO of ReviMedia, is a “serial entrepreneur” with more than 12 years experience in the online marketing business, focusing on launching international business ventures.