Is social media a key part of your lead generation efforts?
For our latest research report, we partnered with Sharpspring in order to reach out to our respective communities and get their insights into their experiences with social media as a lead generation tool, including which platforms and approaches they’re finding most effective for lead gen, whether those efforts have been meeting their expectations, and what they expect, in future, in regards to their social lead building efforts.
You can download our full '2019 State of Social Media Lead Generation' report right now, but this week, we're breaking down the key elements for more specific investigation.
Today, we're going to look at the last part of our report - what marketers are expecting to see, in regards to their lead gen efforts, moving forward, and which technologies they expect will play a bigger part.
Part 4: The Future of Social Media Lead Generation
Based on our previous reports, we’ve established an idea of what social lead gen processes are currently being utilized, which elements are driving results, and which social platforms marketers are getting the majority of their leads from.
But are marketers actually happy with their current lead generation strategies?
Interestingly, the majority are not:
More than 45% of respondents indicated that they don't think their current marketing efforts are aligned with optimal lead generation practices - and a further 23% weren’t sure of such.
That could mean that they're too focused on building a presence on the social platforms themselves, as opposed to driving customers to the next phase of the conversion path, or that they’re not linking their online performance back to their actual business goals. This could also be seen as aligning with our earlier finding that many marketers are not satisfied with the quality and volume of leads they’re generating from social platforms – if their processes are not maximizing their lead generation opportunities in the first place, that would impact their ultimate results.
What this likely means, however, is that we still have a way to go in establishing strategic best practices for social lead gen. If businesses don’t feel confident that they’re on the right track, then we still have some way to go, as an industry, in establishing what those key processes are, and how to best enact them via social platforms.
But marketers do indeed have confidence in social platforms as lead gen sources. In the next element of our survey, we asked which medium marketers believe will be the most effective for their lead generation efforts in future.
More than 53% indicated social platforms as the most likely key driver, beating out direct messaging (19%) and email marketing (17%), and well ahead of traditional media forms. Of course, we are Social Media Today, our audience - the people who took the survey - is more likely to be somewhat biased towards social platforms. But given the option, social came out as the clear favorite, indicating that marketers believe in social as a key lead gen source, even if they’re not confident that they’ve established the best plans for utilizing the medium for such as yet.
For many, automation is another key to this. With so many connected platforms and options, and ways to automate such processes, it seems logical that brands will eventually seek to reduce their manual workloads, and increase their reliance on automated elements as such systems become more refined and deliver on consumer expectation.
The problem is that social media is built for social interaction – many research reports have indicated that consumers crave that extra human touch in engaging with brands via social platforms, the ability to get a fast, human response, which somewhat replicates their general use of social networks to connect them with their friends and family.
Brands that can link into the way that social media is used to communicate tend to win out, which can make the automation element difficult. Auto-DMs have been given the thumbs down by most, while the jury is still out on bots.
But then again, at some point, scale is also a key consideration.
Will automation be the answer? According to our survey responses, it’s certainly going to play a bigger part.
More than 70% of respondents indicated that they’ll consider automating aspects of their social media marketing process in order to drive efficiency - which makes sense, given the breadth of automation tools available. But it may not, as noted, deliver optimal results.
At least, not yet. Some bot tools in particular are starting to provide a lot more utility, and it’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where such options will be able to provide fast, efficient customer service, without the need for any human interaction. They’re not quite there yet, but you can see the potential.
There is clearly opportunity in automation – and potentially even more so in regards to follow-up e-mail sends to segmented lists, based on which stage in the cycle each potential customer is placed.
Definitely, our respondents agree that automation is evolving, and will deliver greater efficiencies in future.
The problem then is determining how long it will take for those tools to evolve to the point where they’re able to deliver significant value, without detracting from the transaction process. As noted, given the nature of social media, people are looking for human connection, which is why robotic, automated responses and comments feel so out of place. Not only do they look bad, they can seem hollow, while interacting with machines is largely in opposition to what social media platforms are all about.
Social media gives everyone a voice, and an opportunity to be heard at any stage - and if that voice is only being heard by bots, the dynamic shifts. While there is clearly a place for such tools, fitting them into social media interactions requires a delicate balance, and automation tools, at least in this usage example, may not be quite there yet.
But they will get there, and it is worth considering how, and where, they can fit into your broader approach.
This is the current state of social media as a lead generation tool. Most businesses are getting average results, but the majority also see significant opportunity, if they can get the balance right and aligned with their broader strategic focus.
There’s more to be done from our end, as marketers. We need to learn more about what works, establish better practices, and better understand what consumers respond to on social platforms, in alignment with our own messaging. That’s largely what the results indicate here.
While there’s no doubting the potential of social media as a lead generation source, the method still requires more experimentation and understanding.
Download our full State of Social Lead Generation 2019 report to get the complete picture of the current state of the process.