21 tips to help you review your approach to getting value from your social media marketing
You hear this question a lot: can social media actually drive sales? It's a key question with all the ongoing interest in social media.
My answer, when asked, is that social media primarily grows permission through lead generation if you're approaching it as a "sales acquisition tactic". But it's actually often a more relevant tactic for customer re-engagement. Once you have permission then you can develop the relationship and earn the right to sell. With this in mind, Dave and I thought it would be good to give you a whole bunch of ideas to think about how you use social media to generate leads.
First, start with an evaluation of you current online lead generation process and figure out how well it’s working through your website. Also, consider where you're turning people off - and correct that before you start new initiatives 🙂
It's easy to get lead generation wrong by not understanding what you mean by a lead, the notion of leads is really a sliding scale rather than a definition, just like any other type of relationships. The old-school direct marketing steps of anonymous > prospect > lead > customer > advocate is still a great starting point and provides and important context when planning what it is you really need to achieve.
With this foundation in place, then you can look at ideas to boost leads and sales
1 Define the leads you're looking for
- Create buyer personas - these have been around long before social media, direct marketers have long since found that having a good picture in mind of the target customer is beneficial in terms of how we write our content to connect with our audience. Apply that to blog marketing, for example and you can have multiple categories of content topics and so you may find that certain categories speak more to certain personas than others. And certain Facebook and Twitter updates may appeal to certain types of users. Regardless of how you segment these groups, it’s incredibly beneficial to share target persona information with whoever is developing content for your social media channels.
- Be useful - Kristina Halvorson (Content Strategy for the Web) and Joe Pulizzi (Get Content, Get Customers), both says that if our content isn’t supporting the successful fulfilment of our business objectives and your users’ goals, then it’s a waste of time. "Focus on the intersection between the two", recommends Joe. Kristina suggests adding two columns to a content inventory: value to user and value to business.
2 Your blog or "social hub" is key to generating leads
- Prioritise subscription - An email subscription is step 1 in lead generation, yet often over-looked in lieu of offering a blog RSS feed. RSS is fine but it'll do next to nothing for helping you gain permission marketing. Email subscription must be front and centre with the benefits clearly explained - what would the user receive via email? A weekly or monthly round-up of your best content with the latest offers?
- Clear CTA's - Every blog post should include a relevant call-to-action that is related to what the post is about. It could be that you want to deepen engagement with subscribers and step them towards engaging with your products or services in a softer way, a webinar for example, and/or ensure that there's clear information about how to buy, the next steps for those that are interested. If you don't ask, you don't get. Ensure you've optimised landing pages from the email so that you can appreciate the user's journey with appropriate messaging.
- Use ad space - A common tactic with big publishers is to have formal ad containers in blogs and emails and then define the value of engaging with them. This supports the call-to-action and you're not sending mixed messages by virtue of using a well established protocol of driving sales leads from content interest.
3 Have great, shareable landing pages
- Respect the process - It's important to have landing pages showcasing your shareable content marketing "objects" that are dedicated to convert visitor to lead, not sale, and in turn lead to sale. Here, the communications are totally different. You're focussing on a part of the process at anytime, not all of it.
- Keep focus - When thinking about lead conversion, keep the communications on a landing page short and focussed, don't data capture because you can, data capture can be based on what will improve the relevance and quality of any future communications. You're data capturing for permission at this stage, not sale.
- Test it - a landing page is a key part of the conversion process and it's shocking how the art of button sizes, colours, images and messaging impact a click conversion - don't under-estimate it. Apply tools like the Google Website Optimize to test different versions of the page and its elements.
4 Clear brand messages and tone of voice
- Purpose - Retaining that clarity on your brand's compelling purpose is a fundamental. I say this since it's easy to get all 'ad-men' about the promotional side of what you offer. The truth is that, via social media especially, you also need to be clear why your brand exists, what value it adds and then demonstrate that in your content, assets, web services and social interactions. Inspire commitment from a user to become a lead in the truest sense when even just creating a blog post, just as you would in your product or service
- Just be human - the whole point of social media marketing is building relationships, it's not the sum total of the tools and tactics. Failure to just be regular people is a killer. Companies like Zappos are famed for this very human way of interacting, real people at Zappos will interact with customers via the customer Twitter service. There's an old adage "people buy people", I'd suggest social media leverages that as a huge opportunity.
- Familiarity breeds like-ability - so many social media initiatives struggle because it's marketers leveraging tactics rather than thinking about the customer experience. Brands create expectation by having a Facebook page, they consumer assumes you're actually awake and interested in conversing, naturally. So, respond at least, answer questions whilst your competitors are still asleep! Then, pro-actively start the discussion as resources and confidence grow.
- Listen to conversations - Monitor conversations about both your brand and competitors. There are many social media listening tools that will help you keep a pulse on what’s being talked about and many will flag up potential sales leads for you. The more you know, the more responsive you can be and the more relevant you communications and content.
- Develop a consistent brand attitude - Guy Kawasaki's book (Enchantment) talks much about having a positive, can-do attitude within social media. It sounds obvious, but if you've one person loving their job and one not then you're going to get 50% success at best. Social media is people based. Zappos talk about how they made it easy for staff to leave by paying them! This has to typify their extraordinary commitment to the power of people and their recognition that enthusiasm is contagious.
5 Ensure content breadth and depth
- Offer variety - People, stories, images, video, audio and words all help us think about ways to engage more fully beyond "a blog post".Those content types can be expressed through a range of media including e-newsletters, blogs, white papers, article marketing, case studies, online tutorials and webinars. Use a good mix of content, not all users will read a case study or watch an online video. You’ll increase your odds of being seen by more people by using a mix that makes sense to your market and audience.
- Thought leadership - Share your knowledge freely in blog posts and white papers. Some businesses are afraid they’ll give away all of their secrets. Yet your knowledge remains a valuable asset; shared freely in a relevant format, it's also your key to permission and lead conversion. Giving information and knowledge freely now earns the permission to sell later. Worst case those inspired fans or prospects become amplifiers for your communications. Lisa Barone also suggests that “social media is an emerging lead generation tool because it lowers the barrier to the sale by building relationships, displaying expertise and through networking you’re able to bring in more people than cold calling ever could.”
- Learn what content works - Where the first step to engaging a community of potential customers is sharing content, a simple social media update won't cut it. Include links with your updates that expand on key ideas, most easily achieved on your blog. Keep in mind that your goal is to create value for your fans and followers. Learn what your audience responds to and then adjust your updates and content mix.
6 Findability and reach
- Remember Google - not like you can forget it. Your content and social media updates via your blog, Facebook page, tweets and YouTube channel appear in search results, too. The person searching is an active user looking for your knowledge and information to solve their problem. Market your content well to create the inbound effect that Hubspot are now famous for promoting. HubSpot provides some interesting recommendations: “Businesses must produce enough content for their blog to kick off growth in leads, which starts with about 24 to 51 posts.” HubSpot found that more indexed pages on Google also translate to more leads. They suggest that every 50 to 100 incremental indexed pages can mean double-digit lead growth. Also improve findability within your site by using signposts to highlight the main content.
- Engage with influencers - this is now the staple way to grow reach. Influencers will be a mix of journalists and bloggers specific to your market or niche. You don’t have to be a big company to get picked up for a story - you do need to be findable (see above) and interesting. Build relations with those influencers over time so that when you have a story to share on a topic, offer the information to one or two contacts - not everybody! HARO is one good way to spread information there's also the developing of simple social media newsroom specific for the influencer audience.
- Social sharing tools - help users share your content and offer ways for people to like your content by using free tools such as AddThis and ShareThis. Likes are valuable votes of confidence and go a long way with users who may have come to your site for the first time. Make your content easy to share.
- Inspire an army - this is the most important tip - your customers are best placed to help you acquire more fans and followers, and so ultimately leads and sales. Focus on this. Why? If you can keep customers engaged and inspired then not only do they feel good about future purchase, they are powerful amplifiers to share your story with us. I think this is the most important point and yet ironically is not about lead acquisition, it's all about thrilled customers
Let us know what other ideas you'd add - or if you disagree with any above...