Yes, social media can be a source of lead generation for B2B marketers. In fact, 85% of Top Performers indicated social media is a top five channel for lead generation in a recent 2013 survey from Gleanster Research. That's a little shocking considering widespread reluctance to incorporate social media in B2B marketing execution over the last 5-7 years; mainly because it's very difficult to measure a return on investment in social media. In truth, not a lot has changed over the last few years, so why has social media become a top five channel for lead generation? Social media is still far more nebulous to measure than traditional B2B marketing channels like tradeshows, webinars, telemarketing, etc.
But it seems B2B marketers are starting to warm up to the idea that a handful of deals sourced by social can make the time and effort involved in pulling social media into the mix well worth the effort. That's because hyper-personalized content marketing strategies are forming more intimate relationships with buyers and helping B2B brands influence purchase decisions early in the buying cycle. That's exactly how Top Performers are getting a leg up over the competition and it has very little to do with how good your sales people are because the competitive advantage is formed long before a buyer talks to sales. B2B marketers are literally educating and nurturing opportunities via social. Actually Top Performers revealed quite a bit about what makes their social media marketing lead generation efforts unique, different, and lucrative.
B2B Marketers Target Top Tier Social Media Sites
B2B marketing on social media is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. You are looking for that golden conversation that turns into a real opportunity in the pipeline. But for B2B marketers, the typical deal size makes a single-source opportunity extremely compelling. With many social media sites to cover, your time is best spent targeting the sites with the largest community of users and using keywords and highly relevant messaging to get in front of these individuals. Let's face it, capturing mindshare on social media is a bit like drinking from a fire hose. But some social sites will allow you to target users more effectively than others. When it comes to Top Performers, B2B marketers ranked the top four most effective social media sites as LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and SlideShare.
LinkedIn: Engaging buyers on LinkedIn is primarily about sharing relevant content and participating in Discussions and Groups. B2B marketers should target industry- and role-specific LinkedIn Groups and make it a regular practice to share thought leadership and blog posts with these individuals. B2B sales reps should try to inject themselves into discussions or questions by adding value, not selling. Also, it's bad form to use Discussion forums for promotion and, for that reason, LinkedIn added a Promotion tab to Group environments, which is widely considered a waste of time for B2B promotion.
Twitter: For B2B marketers Twitter is largely a volume play. Hashtags should always be used to target specific buyers with relevant messages about products and services. Generally, short and compelling insights or Tweets are most likely to get clicks. Twitter is essentially a fire hose of unstructured information, so mindshare is largely a function of volume. Top Performers indicated that on average they tweet 12-15 times a day using the company twitter handle. Tweets could include recent product news, events, or relevant industry best practices. It's generally a best practice not to blatantly promote services on Twitter. Use Twitter to keep the brand active and share thought leadership in the form of blog posts, videos, website links, or links to other social properties.
YouTube: Rich media has become a very popular source of promotion for B2B marketers. Create a company channel on YouTube where you can centralize and align all brand-related videos to one location. Unfortunately, YouTube constantly drives traffic away from your main web properties where forms can capture contact information. Even when videos are hosted by YouTube and posted to a website, it's easy for users to navigate their way directly to YouTube. YouTube allows you to add links to the descriptions of videos as long as http:// is added to the beginning of the link; it will become clickable when the video posts. Links back to relevant website landing pages should be presented on the first line of a YouTube description when posting a video. At the same time, it's critical to include keywords when posting videos to maximize organic search benefits and brand exposure.
SlideShare: As with YouTube, it's good practice for B2B marketers to create a branded channel on SlideShare and load as many presentations as possible to the site. Take the time to fill out all of the keywords and description copy because this will help drive organic traffic to your presentations. Links can also be added to the description copy on presentations, but readers must manually copy the text and paste it into a browser. Use a URL shortening tool on links that are inserted into SlideShare so you can capture analytics around which links are driving traffic to the website from SlideShare. SlideShare also has a forms and lead capture option. Top Performing organization that use SlideShare were 15x more likely to use the premium form capture features on uploaded content.
To download the full report PDF and to find out how long it takes the average organization to see a return from inbound marketing efforts check out: http://www.gleanster.com/reports/targeting-b2b-buyers-on-social-media
Author: Ian Michiels, Principal & Managing Director