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Let's Broaden Our Definition of Lead Generation in Social Media

by Jennifer Agustin  |  
October 24, 2012

Everyone knows that content rules, especially when it comes to social media. But for B2B marketers, knowing that someone shared your funny video, "liked" your company photo, or even retweeted that link to your new whitepaper is not enough. B2B marketers want to know that their social media efforts are generating or influencing actual leads and impacting the pipeline.

Learning to Share

The problem is that the way that content is distributed via traditional lead generation channels is at odds with the way that content is generally exchanged via social media. Content in social media—mostly user-generated content—is addictively shareable and, more importantly, free. Social media owes its massive reach and engagement to the fact that everything about the channel (at least in a financial sense) is free—whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest. (Can you imagine what would happen to the number of users and levels of engagement of these channels if, all of a sudden, a monetary cost were associated with them?)

As B2B marketers, we’re very much used to the idea of providing valuable content to our prospects in exchange for their contact information so that we can ultimately follow up with them, build a relationship, and ideally, close a sale.

So, what’s a B2B marketer to do?

Saying Goodbye to Instant Gratification

We need to expand our thinking around what “lead generation” means in social media. While it never hurts to use your latest tweet or status update to promote content that is gated by a registration form (e.g., whitepapers, free trials, and case studies), we also can’t rely solely on this technique to drive leads and customers from social media. People want more from the brands they engage with on social media—and they don’t want to have to pay for it.

As marketers, we need to provide the best content we can on social media by freely sharing useful blog posts, engaging and even entertaining videos and photos, and informative tweets about our industries. But more importantly, we need to try and get beyond the idea of “instant gratification” in marketing.

You know you’re succumbing to an “instant gratification” moment when you are...

  • Excited that 150 people viewed your post on Facebook.

  • Rejoicing that you gained 100 more followers on LinkedIn.

  • Celebrating after you find out that your tweet has been retweeted 10 times.

Don’t get me wrong—these are all fantastic things to have happen. Where we fall into the “instant gratification” trap, though, is when we measure the entire success of a social media campaign based on these metrics. Why? Because views, new followers, and retweets, as isolated metrics, are not responsible for a B2B sale—they are only pieces of a larger metrics puzzle.

To think of it another way: An infographic that has been shared more than 200 times is great. What’s even better, though, is an infographic that was shared more than 200 times, and as a result increased your brand lift by 30%, caused 75 people to search for your company online, made 60 people visit your corporate website, and compelled 20 people to purchase your product over a competitive solution. Suddenly, your B2B social media content has become more than a lead generator. Your B2B social media content is now a brand lifter, a search and website traffic driver, and most importantly—a sales closer.

Who needs instant gratification when you can achieve results like these?
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Jennifer Agustin is director of Marketing at Bizo. She tweets from @leadjen.

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  • by Scott Olson Wed Oct 24, 2012 via blog

    Jennifer, you make some great points and I agree with your take on what's important, especially in B2B transactions. What I'm curious about is, when you say, "What’s even better, though, is an infographic that was shared more than 200 times, and as a result increased your brand lift by 30%, caused 75 people to search for your company online, made 60 people visit your corporate website, and compelled 20 people to purchase your product over a competitive solution," sometimes it is difficult to measure where the brand lift, searches and visits are coming from, or exactly what's driving them. Are you thinking something specific from the infographic or tweet that's causing your company to show up in the search results? If you have thoughts on that I'd love to hear more.

  • by Jen Wed Oct 24, 2012 via blog

    I'm with Scott... how do you measure the greater impact of your social efforts?

  • by Camille Isaacs-Morell Wed Oct 24, 2012 via blog

    Jennifer, in addition to hearing your thoughts in response to Scott's comment, I would like to also hear any suggestions from you in regard to "de-virtualizing" social media contacts and building relationships of trust and on-going engagement in the B2B space.

    Also, I believe that social media, although free, actually requires far more work than say traditional media and lead generation activities. Comments on blogs have to be answered, the data on who "likes" you and retweets you, has to be analysed and acted on.

  • by Jen Agustin Wed Oct 24, 2012 via blog

    Thanks, Scott -- great questions. There are marketing technologies out there that do let you see where your "original referrer" URLs are coming from--even down to at lead level--and whether this person came from a search on your company name or even a search on a concept that you may have presented via an infographic. In the latter case, you could make a fairly solid connection between your infographic and a search-driven website visit. But even if you don't go down to that level of detail, you can still use basic Web analytics to see if, after launching a specific campaign, you've been able to drive not only traffic, but traffic from the business demographics that matter to your business over time.

  • by Jen Agustin Wed Oct 24, 2012 via blog

    Thanks for your insights, Camille. I agree--it's so important, especially in the world of B2B marketing--to take that relationship you've been building via social media and make it real. And in most cases, the only way B2B companies will end up closing a sale is if we turn reply tweets and Facebook comments into real phone calls and in-person meetings. I think it's really up whoever is managing your social media accounts to take on a bit of a sales development role by looking out for potential, qualified interest from social users, and reaching out to see if there's any real lead potential there.

    And it's true, there's a ton of work--and spend--involved in social media. Some ways that we boost the ROI of our social media campaigns at Bizo is by incorporating display ad retargeting wherever possible -- on our website, landing pages, and even from our social links. What this does is essentially helps us keep our brand top of mind with anyone who may have visited our site or social channels, even if they didn't convert right away. It's a nice way to know that you get a "second chance" at every conversion.

  • by Bruno Babic Mon Oct 29, 2012 via blog

    Jen, what an awesome post!!

    I'd just like to add to what you've beautifully put here is that we always have to do small things while thinking BIG and pleasing our prospects and customers by going that EXRA MILE.

    As for the way of de-virtualizing contacts from social media as Camille asked earlier, what's first come up to my mind is where people are initially gathered online in very narrow and specific groups or communities around the interests, hobbies and passions they have in common.

    What happens is that the administrator of a certain MeetUp community informs the rest of the members about the times and dates of the next offline meeting that are normally taking place in local social places like restaurants, pubs or hotels depending on the nature of the MeetUp community.

    And, by the way, these MeetUp groups could range from dating and yoga communities through to strictly business and corporate networking events, meetings or conferences.

    Hope this input has been of a value to you in terms of broadening our horizons related to lead generation in social media.

    Please, feel free and welcome to visit my blog and post your comments there.

    In advance thanks a lot.

    Bruno Babic - Thinking BIG guy and Passionate Online Entrepreneur excited about leading a Luxury Playboy Millionaire Lifestyle supported by earning multiple streams of cash from an automated online business

  • by Mark Brewerton Thu Nov 1, 2012 via blog

    Really interesting post - I am increasingly hearing about infographics but it is not something that seems to have really gained any traction over in the UK yet particularly not in the B2B space - any tips on best practice would be most helpful!

  • by Jen Agustin Thu Nov 1, 2012 via blog

    The impact of social can really run the gamut from helping boost your brand awareness to actually driving conversions. I think the secret is to define the metrics that matter to your business (e.g. site visits, brand awareness, form submissions, etc.) and then tie these as closely as possible to when you launched your specific social campaigns.

  • by Jen Agustin Thu Nov 1, 2012 via blog

    Thanks for reading, Bruno. Agreed -- does a good job of bridging the virtual world with the "real" world.

  • by Jen Agustin Thu Nov 1, 2012 via blog

    Thanks, Mark. Yep, infographics seem to be all the rage here! Here's a link to a few from Bizo:

    Hope you find these helpful!

  • by Neha Verma Wed Nov 7, 2012 via blog

    Content really matters.Content helps in improving keyword rank.Content can bring more visitors to the page. Huge traffic is obtained when targeted keywords are used in content.

  • by Joe McFadden Wed Nov 14, 2012 via blog

    "Because views, new followers, and retweets, as isolated metrics, are not responsible for a B2B sale—they are only pieces of a larger metrics puzzle."

    Excellent point! It's especially true for B2B companies with a long sales cycle--one touch point does not guarantee a sale. You need to take that new follower as your first interaction, not your only, with that customer.

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