178742843Only a few years ago, social media was a task reserved for the intern-- but who in their right mind would do that today?

That’s because social media now plays a much more important role for business growth. For one, it offers a lifeline to generating and nurturing leads on their way to making a purchase.

Some of the largest companies put major stock in the ability to fill the sales pipeline through social media and you can too.

Personally, at my agency, I have seen months with a 20% social media conversion rate, often rivaling the number of leads from referral traffic I receive from media partners like TV and radio stations.

So, how do you capitalize on that opportunity? Without further ado, here are a few tips to help you generate more leads with social media.

1) Set a Goal

It’s impossible to know if you’ve arrived if you don't have a destination. Setting a monthly goal for the number of social leads you need to generate will allow you to assess if you are doing all that is necessary to keep your sales pipeline full.

Before the first of the month, our team sits down and evaluates the leads our clients need from social media. We look at the content coming up on the editorial calendar and also set goals for each social channel (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Etc.).

Then, each week, we evaluate how our different channels are performing. This allows us to look at the data and of course correct along the way.

2) Identify the Proper Channels

This is where I believe many brands fall flat. It can seem great to be on every social network under the sun, but it might not be doing much for you in the way of returns. 

While all social media channels have their pros and cons, you must identify where your personas are hanging out on social media. For example, if you are targeting CMOs, LinkedIn is probably a better prospecting tool than Facebook. By design, LinkedIn is a professional network, and the content is more geared for a business crowd.

I also always advise clients to invest their time where they believe they will have the most return, sometimes being on every platform can deteriorate overall quality of your social media interaction– specifically with a lead gen goal.

When you set your goals and evaluate the results, look at the amount of time you are putting into each social media channel. If you are spending a lot of time, with little to show in leads, it might be time to move away or lessen your involvement.

For example, you wouldn’t buy a billboard with the expectation of only receiving one lead. Your time is the most valuable resource you have, even if it does not show up on an invoice to your business.

3) Following

If you don’t have much of a following on social media or an established a voice, your messages won’t carry very far. Hence, very few leads will be collected. Yes, there are other ways on Twitter to join a conversation, but you need share of voice which comes from long term social growth or paid posts.

Achieving a following on social media does not happen overnight, so be patient. And please, whatever you do, please DO NOT purchase followers. Instead, know the persona you are targeting and share relevant content to that audience.

And on Twitter, actively seek out your audience. I like to set up streams on my HubSpot Social Inbox to monitor conversations happening around a keyword or geographic region. Then, I can selectively reach out to these people in a one on one conversation. More times than not, I garner a long-term follower and a lead.

4) Frequency

Is there a magic number when it comes to frequency of posting? Not really, and best practices seem to change about as quickly as the wind. I would say that you must be posting consistently. That can mean upwards of 10 tweets a day and 3 Google Plus posts.

Obviously, the more you post, the more likely you are to land leads…just be careful of turning into a spammer. If you are ever questioning your high frequency of posting, you have probably already gone over the edge.

When you are trying to capture a lead, they not only need to have an interest in your content, they need to trust you (or your company). It can be apparent if you take a month or more off from posting. This is like seeing someone’s resume with a 2 year hole between jobs. It raises questions about your motives and how trustworthy you may be.

5) Messaging

Similar to a CTA (or Call to Action), the wording of your social media posts can mean all the world. I usually send the same link out at least twice with a different message.

Example: “Learn how to capture more leads via social media.” And “Are your social media leads lagging? Click here for more information.”

Remember, you need to get a click before you can get a conversion. Try using action words like “click,” “today,” and “now.” I have also found that ending a message with a colon will raise your click through, as opposed to a period or comma.

6) Content & Engagement

Expecting to capture leads through social media without your own content (i.e. blog) is like calling your friends up on the phone and hitting the "mute" button. Your content is the backbone of your social sharing. The deeper, more interesting the topics, the more likely you are to land a new contact.

I often feel that most companies are too concerned with top of the funnel content, and not with middle or bottom of the funnel. Think about it: sometimes customers are more ready to buy than others, so you need content to support it.

For example, one of my clients sells motorcycles. We need interesting content from those learning to ride, all the way to seasoned veterans. So, for the newbies a checklist on the DMV safety might make sense, while a seasoned rider will want an in-depth look into the upcoming bikes or new accessories.  

The beauty of social media lead generation is the fact that there is no single “right way.” It is a process of measurement and refinement. If you need an additional direction for your lead generation, download our “Beginners Guide to Inbound Marketing” from Marketing Matters Inbound.

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Originally published Aug 21, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017