social media how toAre you finding your social media efforts aren’t generating enough leads? Do the ones that come through “die on the vine”? This article will tell you why and what to do about it.

To fix the lead problem, you need to be able to easily identify where your “system” is breaking. There’s only one place to look for holes in your lead generation efforts: your sales funnel.

I faced this exact challenge and found that it wasn’t my strategies that weren’t delivering—it was the sales process that social media leads were being put through. Once I identified that, I worked on building a better sales process for social media leads.


Do you need a different sales process for your social media campaign?

Here are 4 tips to help you convert your leads.

#1: Identify Traditional Online Leads

Consider the type of leads you have coming in from traditional channels and where they’re coming from. Some traditional online channels that are putting leads through your sales cycle probably include paid search, affiliate advertising, banner advertising and I’m sure there are others.

However, what is similar in all of these? They deliver leads with a call to action that’s for immediate gratification and results in a very “short” sales cycle. They drive the lead to a landing page to “convert now.”

#2: Identify Social Media Leads

Consider the type of leads that are coming from social media outlets. Some fairly common social media channels that are putting leads through your sales cycle probably include Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs and the list goes on.

What’s different? Think about where you’re driving these leads. They’re engaging with content, not landing pages. At the point where they get to a landing page, it’s probably the same landing page that you sent your other leads to.

#3: Differentiating Between Traditional and Social Leads

You can break leads up into three groups: those who responded to direct conversion points, those who responded to indirect conversion points and those who responded to engagement conversion points.

social media sales funnel

  • Direct Conversion Points: People have responded to an ad to buy your product or service. They’ve shown a clear indication that they’re interested in your product or service and are going to buy within a short time. They’ve responded by clicking on a paid search, affiliate or banner advertisement or have responded to an advertisement for an “offer” that they want.
  • Indirect Conversion Points: People have downloaded one of your ebooks, attended a non-product–based webinar or subscribed to your newsletter or blog.

Essentially, these people have provided their contact information in response to a “piece of content” that they want.

  • Engagement Conversion Points:
    Those who have clicked on your tweets, followed you, become a fan on Facebook, liked your status update or even commented. They’ve interacted with you, but you don’t have their contact information because they haven’t filled out one of your lead forms yet.

Each conversion point is different and should be treated differently. If you think in terms of a sales funnel, these points would stack on top of each other. They could be used to represent an estimated time frame to the point of close or sales conversion.

The time frame will depend on the length of your standard sales cycle. For example, if your sales cycle was 1 to 30 days for your longest direct conversion point lead, you might find that social media leads represent 31 to 60 days for the indirect lead and 61 to 90 days for the engagement lead.

#4: Identify Where You’re Losing Social Media Leads

social media

Where do your social media leads fit into your sales funnel?

If you’re treating the social media lead the same way you’re treating the direct conversion point lead, you’re likely killing the sales before they have time to mature.

The first step to converting social media leads is to understand where they fit in the sales funnel as we’ve discussed here.

The next step is to know what to do differently so you can facilitate their movement through the sales funnel to the sale.

You may find that you don’t have a sales and marketing process that supports this type of lead and if that’s the case, there will be some work to do before your social media sales results will improve.

different marketing

Do your sales and marketing support your social media leads?

Immediate Action Item

Follow a few of your social media leads to see their path, document what communications they receive and when they convert or when they fall off. You can identify fall-off because they’ll unsubscribe to your emails or stop opening them, or they could even unfollow or un-‘like’ you. If you spot-check ten or so leads who have responded to an indirect conversion point, you’ll immediately identify a pattern of where your sales process is killing your sale to give you the data you need for a more in-depth analysis.

To learn more, check out 5 Social Media Mistakes That Hurt Sales, the 3 Ways to Close the Gap Between Social Media and Direct Response and the 3 Ways Twitter Analysis Can Enhance Your Marketing.

How do you track your social media leads? Are they working? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

All photos from Shutterstock.
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  • So it is safe to say from your research that historically social media leads take longer to convert? My theory would be that they are still in the information gathering stage of the buying process, so they would have to move further down the sales pipe than a prospect clicking on a Google PPC ad. Am I correct?

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  • Nichole_Kelly

    Nick – Thanks for commenting. Not necessarily. The time frame to close depends on what kind of messages your social media channels are delivering. In this example Southwest is driving people who want deals on airfare to a specific call to action to get them.!/SouthwestAir/statuses/849379366 For those who click on this link and follow through with the action Southwest might find that they convert faster than some other channels.

    But there are also other people who are following and responding to your social media channels who aren’t in the purchase mode. Because social media has offered the ability to reach so many people at an efficient cost brands now have the ability to reach prospects and build relationships “before” they get to the buying phase. If you looked at the different types of leads that are interacting with social media channels, I have found that you have those who aren’t yet looking for a solution but you have intrigued them in some way (pre-research phase), those who are in the process of researching a solution (research or information gathering phase) and those who are looking to make a purchase in a short period of time (buying phase). If you can identify the difference between these prospects in your social media channels you have a better chance of taking someone from pre-research to buying phase and ultimately closing the deal. However, if you treat them all like they are in the buying phase you can easily turn off your prospects who are in the pre-research and research phase with discounts and offers to buy as soon as possible.

    Does that make sense?

    At IMS in 2010 one of the presenters did show some research that showed that social media leads are more likely to search for your brand and convert through PPC than non-social media leads, but I am in the process of gathering data to see if there is validity in the theory.I can’t remember where the source of the research was, so if someone has it please let us know.

    I hope this helps and thanks so much for stopping by.

  • To me it’s all a question of discovery, because initially it’s often not easy to differentiate a browser from an interested party. The balance between asking enough questions and offering enough information and doing the complete opposite is the clear challenge. As I also mentioned in a post recently, give a prospect all the information they need from a marketing perspective, but fail in judging their readiness to become a customer and they just might go somewhere else. However, with Social Media, calls to action are obviously needed, but shouldn’t appear to be too aggressive or over bearing, people don’t that approach any more. So, perhaps once the forms are completed, all the questions are answered and all the boxes are ticked, maybe then it’s time for the line that is dotted to be signed. I think a lot of trial and error situations will occur, go for a sale too early and you’ll blow it, go in too late and lead could be gone. A great post, encourages people to consider that sales and marketing have got to assist each other a lot more to find success with Social Media leads.

  • I like that the fact that in marketing online you can test and fail quickly to then fine tune your sales funnel. I am often interested in how people found me and my Suitcase Entrepreneur blog in the first place and if I can’t see this from Google Analytics or other methods I often ask them via email.

    I then also note how long someone’s been in my community before they start to be active on social media commenting with me and engaging to when they may consider buying from me or working with me.

    Great article and insight Nichole. One question I have is affiliate links. While you can track how many conversions you have from ads or recommendations you put on your site or in newsletters you can’t tell from the analytics provided by for example Commission Junction how many clicked and did not buy.



  • Nichole_Kelly

    Peter – Thanks so much for your comment. This statement “go for a sale too early and you’ll blow it, go in too late and lead could be gone” is spot on. Figuring out the timing is critical for marketing teams.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Natalie – Thanks for stopping by. That is an interesting challenge on the affiliate side. Maybe you can help track clicks without purchases by shortening the affiliate link with a URL shortener. Then you can compare how many clicks the link received in your URL shortener dashboard versus how many bought in your affiliate tracking dashboard. I would test this to ensure your affiliate tracking is still in place, but logically all the pieces are still connecting and you are able to look at your URL shortener stats to view the clicks. Just make sure you use a service that allows you to view clicks within specific date ranges so you can narrow your results to the time period you are looking at. I hope this helps! Great comment Natalie. Thanks for sharing.

  • Yes that’s what I was thinking too. Thanks for confirming!

  • Hi Nicole.

    Loved your very informative and helpful article here. Generating leads through Social Media is an area that I work hard on educating myself. Such a great potential here. And finding new and innovative ways to capture leads is a fun challenge.

    Great to see that SME is covering this fascinating topic.

    Cheers.. Are

  • Yoki

    Hi, currently, we are promoting a free trial to use our product targeting business clients. We tried using SEM ads to enhance product awareness and to trigger leads (free trial no.), but we found it’s quite difficult to obtain leads from B2B clients. 1) How can we analyze our sales funnel? (we haven’t set the funnel tracking at google analytics), and 2) can you give me some advice on B2B SEM strategy? Thanks very much!

  • Ray Fenster

    Great stuff, I coach that no matter what the source of the lead to research the social media platforms to learn more about the prospect prior to contacting them. So social media does not only give you the opportunity to generate more leads, you can append the social information to enhance and speed up the conversion to sale.

  • Hi Nichole!

    Great post. Your points were clear and are obviously supported by evidence. I enjoy your thoughtfulness in constucting the SMO Funnel. How long had did it take you to develop this concept?

    I wonder, however, if this tool is the most effective way of illustrating your point. I do agree that the time it takes to make social media conversations on average takes more time for engagement and conversion. I was wondering if it would be helpful to think about it as an orbit or rings. It probably does not matter, but just offering a second way of looking at the visual. What do you think?


  • Nichole_Kelly

    Sebastian – I’m a visual learner so I tend to think in terms of graphics. LOL. I have found the sales funnel to be helpful when describing the concepts to those who aren’t visual thinkers but are accustomed to traditional business terms. Because the sales funnel is a concept that many executives understand and have years of experience in translating leads into revenue it helps explain social in a way that is less abstract.

    However, your orb/ring idea is intriguing. I would love to see what you have in mind. 🙂

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Ray – Great points. I totally agree. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Are -Thank you so much for the feedback. Nothing makes my day more than knowing that I have helped someone with an article. 🙂

  • Nice article Nichole! Once people get past the initial excitement of creating their FB/Twitter page, they’re not usually sure what to do next. In your experience, have you seen one social media platform convert leads more efficiently over the others?

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Mason – Yes, but I really think that depends on your business and industry.From my experience “old school” social media converts the best, i.e. the blog or on-site community. But it makes sense because they are built to convert well. Usually they have lead forms built right in. However, they do much better when supported by external channels such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etcetera as those sites provide another audience for their blog and community content.

    However, I really think it varies drastically by industry. AJ Bombers, for example would likely say that the combination of Twitter and FourSquare promotions was the highest converting for them because they have been successful in finding a creative approach that works. See what they did here.

    You just have to use trial and error to find the best converting source and to do that, you need to be able to measure it, of course! And while you are looking at your best converting source you can’t forget how the others may have touched that customer along the way. Your best converting source, may not be the best source for starting and building the relationship that ultimately led to the conversion.

    I hope this helps Mason. Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation.

  • Thanks Nichole,
    I love it when you read something that gives you that aha moment. Very helpful information, although I am still in the process of getting the numbers following and getting involved.

  • Morqos77

    great article nichole !

  • drago kajtuzovic

    great article! thanks nichole

  • Interesante

  • Nice point. By segregating your leads, not only are you able to create a systematic approach to your leads. You also become able to focus more on your weak spots.

  • great points , we should think about the traditional as well new social leads to get idea of it, design the proper layout of our facebook fan page to leverage that via our blogs and many other channels .

  • Thanks Nichole. The AJ Bombers piece was really interesting. For certain industries, I have seen YouTube/Video Podcasts lead directly to sales. Potential buyer sees video, potential buyer buys product. I learned how to connect with people effectively on Twitter, but haven’t seen many direct sales as result. In my limited experience, Facebook/Twitter are good reinforcement tools.

    I agree with you though, Forums/Community sites and blogs are still the best tools IMO…Thanks again!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Wow, Geoff. Thanks so much! I’m so glad you found the article useful.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Thank you! I’m so glad you stopped by.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Thanks Joan. It means a lot that you stopped by and joined the conversation.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Andrew – Thanks for commenting. I just imagine how much better we could all be at converting leads if we identified and gave laser focus to the areas we are weak in. That’s powerful stuff! 🙂

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Ram – Thanks for commenting. That’s a great idea!

  • Great article Nichole. Understanding the sales cycle and lead times in this world of content webinars versus project specific needs request is key in today’s fast moving digital business processes.

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  • Nichole_Kelly

    Mark – I agree! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  • Hi Nicole
    Thanks for the interesting article. I would like to share our experience on this topic
    Scan & Target currently helps customers identify leads on Twitter by detecting questions / complaints on specific products / brands. The appropriate agents (anti churn, sales leads…) then receive alerts and can engage the discussion with the user using the same channel.
    If the customer can put in place an adequate organization to manage these alerts then it can yield nice results (notably for the Telecom industry).

  • This is very useful information, and something I had not really thought much about. Having said that, I think I have instinctively tailored follow ups to the type of lead, trying to anticipate what an individual is expecting, what might turn them off, etc. It just seems like the obvious thing to do.

  • Its good investing in Social media. Social Media platform is ideal for different uses and should therefore have a customized strategy. Due to the rapid rise in popularity and relevancy many online marketing companies now offer Social Media Marketing and strategy development services which are paramount to the success of Social Media as a viable marketing channel. and taping the leads will do wonders to us. Thanks for sharing the info with us.

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