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The Most Common Question in B2B Social Media, Answered

The most common question B2B marketers ask me is: “How do I use social media to get more leads?” And the answer is: Treat it just like any other sales process, with the key exception that you have to earn every lead through demonstrating value, never with hard selling. People care about solutions to their problems, not your products.

Virtually every marketer know what a sales funnel looks like:

Sales funnel

And practically every marketer knows how to work a sales funnel:

    1. First, fill the funnel with prospects who are aware of you and your business. We’ll call them the Awareness set. Some of those prospects will be qualified; some will not.
    2. Next, of those who are qualified, some will actually be interested in what you’re selling and willing to listen to your pitch. They’re known as the Consideration set.
    3. Finally, after evaluating what you offer and your qualifications, some prospects will be sufficiently interested to give you personal data and consent to being contacted. They’re referred to as the Lead Generation set.

Somehow, though, this very logical progression seems to get lost in the context of B2B social media. I’ve actually had a B2B marketer tell me, “But I’m not interested in awareness – I just want the leads.” Well, I’m not interested in going to the gym, I just want the six-pack abs. How’s that going to work out?

You should align your social media activity with the sales funnel. Awareness campaigns should be measured with the appropriate awareness metrics (followers, likes, connections, etc).

As you build your audience, continue to engage them by demonstrating that you understand their business problem, and are able to suggest (not sell) multiple solutions to it. To move them to the Consideration set, earn additional engagement with compelling data, and in-depth content. Consideration campaigns should be measured with the appropriate consideration metrics (retweets, shares, LinkedIn messages, good website engagement metrics).

Finally, after you have demonstrated enough value, possibly with repeated visits to your site over several weeks (you’re checking your Multi-Channel Funnels, right?) you can ask for the email address.

A quick summary of the metrics appropriate to each stage is:

Awareness:

  • Twitter – Followers, #hashtag use
  • LinkedIn – Connections, appearances in search, profile views
  • Facebook – Fans, likes
  • YouTube – Views, comments, likes, favorites

Consideration / Education:

  • Twitter – Retweets, @replies, favorites, referral traffic to website
  • LinkedIn – Messages, recommendations, referral traffic
  • Facebook – Shares, comments, referral traffic
  • YouTube – Subscribers, referral traffic

Demand Generation:

  • Webinar registrations
  • Whitepaper downloads
  • “Contact us” form filled out
  • Calls to your office
  • Emails

If all this sounds like a lot of work, it is.  Funnels are leaky, and social media is a beast endlessly hungry for great content.  But B2B business decisions involve huge price points, long sales cycles, and can make or break careers.  Social media can definitely drive leads for your business, but you have to earn them.

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