Posted to Leigh Carver's blog on July 1st, 2013

Social Media and Lead Generation: Befriending Your Audience

Social media is a trend that's not going away anytime soon. It has changed the way that people communicate with their friends, family, and even colleagues; new tools and enhancements are being rolled out every day to reduce complexity, enrich social experiences, and integrate social media with our every day life.
One of the most buzzed-about facets of social media is also one of the most overwhelming opportunities it offers: that of lead generation. To clear up some of the confusion, we're publishing a three part series on how to use social media for lead generation. We've already discussed how to choose your venues for marketing. Today, we're going to tackle the subject of understanding what tactics and strategy you should use on each of those networks.
Before you get started trying to draw leads in, you need to do some housekeeping on your own website. Is everything in order? Do you have landing pages ready? Is your website mobile friendly, and do you follow content best practices? If your website isn't as compelling as it can possibly be, you're wasting your time.
The last thing you want to do is implement a great lead-gen program, only to have your prospects driven away by your website. If you haven't already, check out Chris Gaffney's article on Superpowered Digital Content Marketing, which covers how all the different puzzle pieces of content marketing work together to enrich your website.
Once you've ensured that your website will effectively convert prospects into qualified leads, it's time to set up your strategy. Ask yourself:

How Should I Speak to My Audience? 

This includes the kinds of language you use (buzzwords? technical terms?), the structure and length of each sentence and piece of content, the reading level you are writing for, the tone and style of your writing, and more.

What Do I Want My Audience to Do?

Ideally, the end goal is a purchase, but that can be a lot to ask of your social followers. Is there a conversion, such as signing up for your newsletter or downloading a whitepaper, that you can use to gauge the success of your program?

How Can I Help My Potential Customers? 

Beyond solutions that you provide after monetary exchanges, what can you give them for free? Are there whitepapers that can help? Can you create content and distribute it that will educate your audience? What can you give them?
When you have the answers to these questions, it's time to design your strategy.
Regardless of network, you should focus on mixing paid content and sales material SPARINGLY with free and educational content. If possible, hand out free trials and demos. Approach all your interactions as a cross between marketing, sales, and customer service. The goal isn't just conversions, it's building a relationship of mutual loyalty and respect between your brand and all of your past, current, and future customers.
For each network, know what rules you are constrained by, especially if you are using sponsored posts, promoted tweets, and more. Take advantage of any and all tools you can: 
  • On Facebook, for example, "any advertised or sponsored offer or opportunity must fully disclose the offer terms and conditions."
  • Utilizing Twitter Cards is a great way to display your content to its best on Twitter, and their new Lead Generation card can help your potential leads convert without leaving the Twitter site. 
  • On Google+, there are tools like Google Authorship and Direct Connect to boost the visibility of your site and your content across both Google+ and the Google search engine. 
  • LinkedIn has a whole host of tools meant to increase your social lead generation. From the LinkedIn Widget to sending Sponsored InMail, LinkedIn has a tremendous number of really excellent tools for B2B Lead Gen.
When you've familiarized yourself with the tools and know how you're going to speak to your audience and what value you'll provide for them, it's time to put together your strategy. Do some research into what the best times for posting are, and consider using a lead nurturing tool with social scheduling built in-- Automatr is one great example of a versatile tool that will streamline your lead collection, scoring, and generation. 
Next week, we'll discuss how to measure the success of your campaign and what sort of listening tools you can use to monitor your social pulse. Until then, for more great lead generation information, consider watching Kylon Gustin's whiteboard series on crafting the most effective digital marketing plan you can.
What tools do you think would most effectively reach your audience? Have you tried implementing any lead generation programs using social networks? Let us know in the comments.