Social media has always involved sharing quality content with your network, but in its current state, B2B companies need to understand how social media can connect with their sales cycle. Companies need to find prospective customers for their products and services, and they need those prospects to find them.
Traditionally, B2B marketers were responsible for generating leads at their companies. That role of marketing has not substantially changed with the advent of social media. But many social media purists have rejected the notion of using any part of social media to fill the sales funnel. They tell you that the funnel doesnít even exist anymore. But no matter what these experts say, you still need to bring in new customers.
Calls-to-Action Are Critical
One important key to using social media to generate leads is to make sure you have calls-to-action (CTAs) as part of all the content you create. The best example of a CTA is a link at the end of a blog post that offers a reader the opportunity to learn about a topic in more depth by downloading an ebook. Many B2B companies go through all of the trouble of creating a blog and sharing the links through their social media profiles, but never provide a way to convert those visitors into leads. That is a huge missed opportunity. If links in the footer are not possible, whether for technical reasons or philosophical reasons, a CTA in the sidebar of the blog is also effective.
Building Trust Through Sharing
Part of driving traffic back to your site or blog requires building trust with your followers by offering value in the form of shared content. One of the best ways to build that trust is to share content by others more than that by you or your company. Many experts offer ratios for sharing content. I have seen it as low as five to one, and as high as sharing 12 links of others to every one of yours. And in the B2B world where the 80-20 rule seems to hover over all parts of business like an apparition, many subscribe to that ratio of posting 8 out 10 links to well-sourced content from outside of your company for every two that point back to your pearls of wisdom.
I sense some anticipation building in the reader and you are wondering what new ratio is just around the corner, but keep that ketchup in the bottle just a little longer. Before we get there, letís talk about what kind of content you should be sharing. Remember, you are trying to build trust and provide value to your followers with this information. Your network needs to know that you have vetted what you are sharing, and not just retweeted or posted links based on headlines. The better quality content you share, the more likely people are to click on your links. This perception of quality will also be applied to your content, thereby increasing the number of clicks.
Donít Forget the Landing Page
We are talking about lead generation for B2B companies. And those CTAs link to landing pages. A landing page is page that allows a prospect to complete the transaction of trading their contact information for a compelling offer. This can be a webinar sign-up form or a page to download an ebook. Without landing pages, it is impossible to convert the prospects to leads. And these are so important to the process, we have added them to the sharing ratio.
A New Sharing Ratio
In The B2B Social Media Book, we present the 10-4-1 rule of sharing. For 10 links you share of third-party content, you can share four links that point to your own content. But the new wrinkle to this ratio is that it includes one direct link to a landing page. This is a direct sign-up for something your prospects will value. Sending traffic directly to the landing pages increases the conversions because you are increasing the number of people who reach the landing page.
This rule is platform agnostic. It is true for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Consider it on Google+ too. Any time you are sharing content, you should be following this rule. This doesnít mean you need to share 15 links to content on every platform every day, especially if you are starting out. You should be trying to hit this ratio as an average.
Like many social media rules, this is one that should be a starting point, and you need to determine if it works for your company by tracking the data of your sharing patterns. Most sharing tools and links shorteners can provide you the data you need to understand your success rates. Although the most important metric is how much traffic you send to your landing pages, and what percentage of those visitors convert to leads. With these ideas in place, you can start using social media to generate leads for your B2B company.