Over the past few years, marketers have been practically hit over the head with the topic of social media. Get a Facebook page! Start Tweeting! Engage with customers! These commands are in every marketing blog, magazine, or newsletter that you read nowadays. Yet many B2B businesses (especially smaller, lesser-known brands) are still skeptical about whether they can generate any business through social media.
One of the most common rebuttals I hear from B2B marketers is, “My prospects may be on social media, but they’re there to connect with their friends; they’re not using Facebook at work to shop for software.” And that may be true. I find this argument to be somewhat ironic though, because isn’t that the case with most marketing channels? I don’t know about you, but I watch television for the shows, not to check out the commercials. I browse blogs and news sites for the articles, not for the banner ads. And I download your white papers and sign up for your newsletter for the information, not so your sales rep can call me every Tuesday.
You can poke holes through all of these excuses though when you look at the staggering numbers. According to recent social media statistics, 11% of people worldwide have a Facebook account, the site is visited more than Google, and the average user spends 700 minutes per month on the site (that’s nearly 12 hours!). And that’s just Facebook – we’re not even taking into account other wildly popular social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn. Surely some of that time is spent online during the workday!
If you’re like most marketers, you’ve likely read these articles and seen the stats, so you’ve dutifully set up your company Facebook page and started a Twitter account. You may have even seen some re-tweets and comments on your wall. You know millions of people are using these sites every day, so common sense tells you some of them must be your prospective customers, but being active in social media hasn’t boosted your sales funnel the way you’d hoped. The purists say you’re not supposed to be selling through social channels, but your boss keeps asking how it’s impacting your bottom line. What’s a software marketer to do?
Below, we’ve listed a few simple steps you can take to not only use social media to identify sales opportunities, but to actually generate warm leads and track conversions through social media (just like you do with Capterra!).
1. Make a list of keyword phrases people might use to discuss your software on social sites – and not just your brand name. For example, if you sell EMR software, your list might include EMR, EHR, PHR, Electronic Medical Records, Electronic Health Records, Patient Health Records, Medical Record Software, Health Record Software, Patient Tracking Software… and so on. You probably already have a list of terms you use for search ads that you can borrow for your social media search, and you may want to add your competitors’ names to the list, as well.
2. Find prospective customers on social media by searching your list of keywords. To narrow the results so they’re more relevant, combine your keywords with buying signal phrases, such as: looking for, buying, searching, switch, recommend, use, suggest, best, and compare (just to name a few). I like to use free tools such as Twitter Advanced Search, LinkedIn Answers, and Quora to search for new posts daily, but there are a host of social media monitoring tools you can use. You can even set up alerts or sign up for RSS feeds for your keyword phrases to automate this process. Also, join several LinkedIn groups specific to your industry and sign up for the daily digest email. A quick scan each morning will show you whether anybody has posted questions about finding software. Here are a few examples that turned up for our hypothetical EMR vendor search:
3. Next, respond to these questions with helpful information and resources (preferably ones you’ve developed yourself, but if you have to link to another site, that’s better than nothing). Note: Here’s where the social media purists have it right – you can’t just enter the conversation guns blazing, saying “Pick me! Pick me!” That type of hard-sell approach would turn anybody off. Instead, you need to answer their question in an honest and transparent way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sell at all on social media. For the first example above, you might say – “I work for XYZ EMR Software company, and we have found that the biggest differentiator among providers is how well the system is tailored to your specific practice. For instance, our software is ideal for large hospitals, but it may have too many bells and whistles for a small family practice. Here is a link to some of our clients’ case studies that detail how they made their EHR decision- (link). I hope this information helps, and regardless of which system you decide to go with, feel free to reach out if you’d like to discuss your options!”
4. Before you hit “post” on that response, add a tracking code to your link so you can measure conversions from your social media efforts. Regardless of which web analytics system you use, you can likely measure lead sources and inbound traffic with some sort of tracking code. I use Google Analytics- the same code you would put on a Google PPC ad. You can simply copy/paste something like ?utm_campaign=SocialMedia&utm_source=Quora on the end of your URL (more info on Google tracking codes here). Then shorten your coded links in a URL shortening service like bit.ly or ow.ly so they don’t look so long and confusing. And Voila! You can now start tracking when that Twitter follower clicked your link, and depending on your web analytics, whether they subsequently signed up for a demo, downloaded any content, or checked out your pricing page. Pretty powerful information, huh?
5. On Facebook, use custom tabs and post updates on your wall to convert page visitors into leads. For example, you can create a tab on your Facebook page to duplicate your most successful landing page offer- maybe a demo incentive or a content download that has been popular on your site. Then, as you release new campaigns, update your Facebook tab and post updates about the new campaign on your wall (like, “Check our our latest eBook!). While it may be true that most of your Facebook fans are either already customers or employees of your company, they may still see your post and “Like” it or share that content with their friends. In turn, their engagement could put your offer in front of potential new prospects. While you can’t proactively reach out to people on Facebook from your company page, you can take advantage of Facebook’s advertising features to target your audience. Facebook’s targeting criteria is constantly improving for B2B advertisers. In keeping with our EMR example, you might create Facebook ads targeting anybody whose work info on Facebook says “doctor,” or anybody employed at a hospital. You could also try targeting anybody who lists certain medical terms in their “Likes”.
6. Integrate your social data from step #4 with your CRM system (ask your CRM provider if they have any social tracking included). If they don’t, you can also start to integrate some of this data manually. For example, on sites like LinkedIn, you can see the prospect’s name, company, and job title even if you aren’t connected to that person. So, when you respond to their question, you may want to input that contact into your CRM system and log the conversation, just like you would an email or phone call. Or, if your web analytics system is already integrated with your CRM provider, you can pull all of your social media leads (from the tracking code in #4) and run a report to see which of those contacts converted into a sale. That report will likely get your boss off your case about whether social media is “worth it”!
These tips only scratch the surface on the myriad ways B2B companies can generate leads through social media, and some may make more sense for your company than others. However, if you haven’t figured out how to get around the social media ROI question yet, these might be some good places to start.
Is your company using social media to generate leads? How do you go about it?