social media how toDo you use social media to generate inbound leads for your business?

Are you unsure about where and how to focus your efforts to meet your lead generation goals?

According to HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Annual Report, social media produces almost double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail or PPC.

If you’re starting a lead generation campaign, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are all excellent places to begin, but knowing how to pull leads from the conversations that happen on these platforms takes some knowledge and practice.

In this article, I’ll share 4 ways you can use social media to generate inbound marketing leads for your business.

#1: Twitter Chats

Twitter chats are frequently scheduled discussions hosted by a Twitter account. Each chat uses a particular hashtag so that other Twitter users can follow the conversation even though topics change with each discussion.

Because of the focused audience communities that participate in Twitter chats, they are a great place to generate leads for your business.

small biz chat

The #SmallBizChat is an example of a Twitter chat that successfully engages its community every week.

How do you start? You can participate in Twitter chats in two ways: Join existing Twitter chats that are related to your industry or create and host your own Twitter chat. Whichever route you choose, join in on relevant chats that potential customers would be participating in to make sure you gain visibility with the right people.

You can find industry- and subject-specific chats that relate to your business in this extensive library of existing Twitter chats.

likeable chat

#Likeablechat is a weekly chat that offers social media tips and an opportunity to network with other marketers.

When participating in a Twitter chat, it’s important to be a good participant. This will help you to attract the leads you want for your business.

Use the hashtag set by the host. Ask and answer questions with contributions that are insightful and illustrate your understanding of the industry and your business offerings. Stay on topic and remember—this is not the forum for pitching your services.

Twitter chats are a place to establish thought leadership and credibility.

twitter chat participant

Join conversations in chat with valuable tips and insights to establish yourself as a credible source.

Here’s how to get the leads you’re looking for.

Once you’re taking part in a chat, research other participants who have tweeted you as part of the discussion or have participated in the chat overall.

conversation with other chat members

Friendly conversation with other chat members can help strengthen your ties and build long-lasting relationships on Twitter.

Follow individuals who could be potential customers down the line and keep tabs on any of their conversations that relate to your services.

Tweet with these connections outside of the chat and, when the time is right, direct message them to share additional links to content or marketing materials you have that will further establish your expertise and what your business could offer them.

Be sensitive and strategic in your pitch. Don’t oversell, spam, over-tweet or be vague with these relationships.

Wait for the right time in conversation to message someone about your business offerings. When you focus on building the right relationships through your Twitter chats, you’re sure to gather leads.

#2: LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are made up of a variety of subject areas, bringing together professionals of similar interests to discuss topics that relate to business. Again, you can find potential leads by either creating your own LinkedIn Group or by joining an existing group that focuses on your area of expertise.

While it’s possible to join up to 50 groups, I suggest you focus your efforts on a few of the right groups for your business.

linkedin group

Join LinkedIn Groups where potential customers or clients may be active, then engage in relevant conversations.

Browse the directory of groups to find the right match, join the discussions and connect with existing members. Begin by consistently posting your own content or others’ content that’s on topic. Participate in existing conversations by answering questions and providing resources.

ask questions

People ask questions in almost every LinkedIn Group, answer them to bring value and help establish relationships.

Here’s how to get the leads you’re looking for.

Identify group members who continually ask questions about your line of business or members who are generally looking for help. Publicly answer their questions from within the group, providing value and using brevity, then follow up with a more in-depth message by using the Reply Privately feature. This way you have both a public and a private point of contact with them.

reply privately feature

The Reply Privately feature is an often-overlooked tactic for generating quality leads from a one-on-one conversation where you’re able to provide value and build trust. This feature is found below a group member’s question under the More tab or by hovering over one of their comments in the discussion.

In your private message, answer their question in full and let them know you’re available to chat more extensively on the topic by phone, if need be. Phone calls within the right context, like a LinkedIn intro, are more likely than a cold call to turn this conversation into a potential lead-builder for your business.

When you focus on establishing credibility with the information you share and then take the relationships you make in LinkedIn Groups to the next step and one-on-one conversations, you’ll gather leads.

#3: Facebook Advertising

Running ads on Facebook can fulfill many different goals, one of which is generating leads from the right audience. Promoted Posts—an engaging form of Facebook advertising—highlight your content in the newsfeed of that audience.

promoted post

Promoted Posts generate more views of your content than it would organically receive on its own on Facebook, giving it that extra boost.

While Facebook isn’t often conducive to direct sales, you can build trust with Facebook users when you consistently distribute quality content and engage in one-to-one communication through long-term interactions.

Use Promoted Posts to highlight quality content from your Facebook Page or your website. Share a link to your latest contest, ebook, instructional video, blog post, lookbook or other content that doesn’t send Facebook users directly to a product or services landing page.

sign up form

Signup forms like this one from Offerpop require Facebook users to enter information about themselves in order to enter a contest or see original content.

Here’s how to get the leads you’re looking for.

To help you capitalize on the click-through of a Facebook user, use a signup form that reveals the content on your website or Facebook tab only after the user fills out any required information that you define. This could be an email address, demographic data or geographic location information.

The more information your business has about a Facebook user, the better you can personalize your future messaging to match their interests, making it more likely that they will convert from lead to customer in the future.

With a content strategy adapted to your audience on Facebook and the consistent visibility offered by Promoted Posts, you’ll likely gather leads from your community on Facebook.

#4: Google+ Hangouts

Google+ Hangouts on Air give you the ability to communicate directly with your audience online, in real time.

Consider hosting a hangout focused on your offerings as a business to show the audience your unique value and, most importantly, to show a human face behind your business.

The types of hangouts that are beneficial for lead generation are:

  • Customer service sessions
  • Interviews with experts and leaders
  • Giveaways and contests
  • Free product demos
    sephora hangout

    Sephora hosted a Google+ Hangout on Air to discuss what’s happening behind the scenes and to talk with beauty bloggers and experts about the latest trends in beauty.

There are many ways to host a Hangout on Air with your audience. You can allow anyone to join in the conversation or limit the discussion to a few individuals. Choose the approach best suited to your the goals.

From the beginning, define what you’re looking to achieve from your hangout and how you plan to connect with your audience before, during and after the event.

Here’s how to get the leads you’re looking for.

Offer value above all, and use strong calls to action throughout your Hangout on Air. Encourage participants and viewers to interact with your business, learn more about your offerings and give people the tools and information they need to make an informed decision about their purchases.

Record your Google+ hangout and save it to YouTube so you can use the video in a blog post, share it across social media and add it to relevant YouTube playlists.

To further drive leads for your business, add links to the products and services discussed on the hangout in the description of the YouTube video for easy reference.

sephora youtube links

In the YouTube video from their hangout, Sephora included links to the products they discussed to make it as easy as possible for people to become customers.

Google+ Hangouts on Air offer businesses a great opportunity to create content and connect with potential clients.

Over to You

Social media offers many untapped opportunities to connect with potential leads for your business. These are just a few suggestions on how you can activate your social audiences and generate leads that can affect your bottom line.

What do you think? How are you using social media to drive leads for your business? What social media channels have you found most successful for generating leads? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • Wow Brain! These are some great untapped opportunities to connect with potential leads for my business. I also use to generate leads. The process is similar to LinkedIn except there’s no groups just one-on-one questions. Again thanks for sharing these 4 ways to use social media to generate leads.

  • Michael Ippersiel

    “Social media produces almost double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail or PPC.” – leads are all well and good, but how well do they convert versus these other lead sources? Quality trumps quantity in my opinion…

  • These suggestions are good but I do agree with @michaelippersiel:disqus that having a lot of leads that don’t convert doesn’t help. Is there data available that shows how well different lead sources convert leads into customers?

  • Great post! What about running social contest and sweepstakes? I’ve found them to be an incredible tool to generate qualified leads.

  • Hi Patrick, thanks! Happy you found the article useful. I’ve heard of Manta but never used it before. I will certainly check it out.

  • Hi Michael, good point. Social media is a tool for scaling, so the quantity of those leads with the right message will certainly reach a larger audience. However, it depends on the methods of generating those leads to clarify their quality. Following the above techniques will help ensure that your leads are of higher quality from the right audience/market. Thanks for the feedback.

  • Hi Chris, contents and sweepstakes are also a great way to find leads for many businesses. However, since there’s a low barrier to entry to win prizes often many leads from a social promotion aren’t quality in every case.

  • Thanks, glad you enjoyed the suggestions. Absolutely, I never implied quantity over quality when it comes to leads from social media. I wanted to stress that using specific techniques, like the 4 listed above, can lead to quality leads at a larger scale then many other marketing channels.

  • I totally hear ya and agree. When it comes to sweepstakes (random draw), there is no real barrier so many leads can be low-quality. I usually recommend brands use the sweepstakes entry form to ask a qualifying question or two. But ya, you’re totally right. I like to recommend that brands run UGC contests that require a user to upload a photo or video — this has a barrier and also encourages the user to spend some time interacting with the brand when taking their photo or video. Not to mention, adding a voting round to the contest will help the whole campaign go viral. Thoughts?

  • AmandahBlackwell

    Thanks for sharing these four ways to generate leads.

    In addition to Facebook Ads, you could create LinkedIn and Twitter Ads.

    I like to participate in Twitter Chats and LinkedIn Groups. I agree that it’s important to choose careful that are aligned with what you do. Don’t feel obligated to join 50 or more groups. Start small and see how it goes. If you feel like you can handle one more group, join it.

  • Hi Amanda, exactly! It seems like we are on the same page. Start small then work your way up. Limiting your efforts will help make the more effective. Thanks for reading! I definitely agree about LinkedIn and Twitter ads, just didn’t want to overwhelm with too many options.

  • Hi Chris, yes I couldn’t agree more about hosting a UGC contest to ensure entries are as qualified as possible, especially if to enter users muse supply a photo, video or text involving the use of your product, content or services in some way. This way, more of the entries will be from true fans, giving your contest more valuable then opening it up to anyone out there with an email.

  • Lyra

    How do you qualify location for lead generation in this arena? Right now, for our type of company & target markets, social media seems to be an excellent support vehicle of other advertising & branding, but not so much a qualified lead generator.

  • Cindy Fascetti Rack

    HI Brian, This is great information. I love the idea of Google + Hangouts. Haven’t used it yet…It has to get off my to-do list…

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  • Thanks Cindy! Glad you enjoyed the tip on Google+ Hangouts, they are honestly really effective with the right plan in place!

  • Hi Lyra, there’s a few ways to qualify location but it depends on what type of business you have. Could you tell me a little bit about your business to help me give you a better answer? Thanks for reading!

  • Dawn Sutherland

    Hi Brian,
    Great article! How would you adapt your suggestions for a B2B marketing rather than B2C marketing which is inferred in the article, especially if the target customer is a VP-level and above. I can’t imagine a senior executive taking time out of their day to participate in a Twitter chat or a linkedIn discussion. What are your thoughts?

  • Anita

    Excellent tips – especailly the Google+ hangouts – have one booked for September!

  • rajendra bhirud

    Wonderful insights…Being social media marketer one question always pops up of HOW to get leads. Your article specifically answers it.

  • Save me lots of time to check social media’s some function. Easy to understand article. Thanks for posting

  • Awesome Anita, glad to provide some value in the article! Thanks for reading.

  • Thank you for the kind word and of course for reading! I hope it helps you answer questions about leads in the future.

  • You are welcome Lory. Thanks for reading, have a great weekend ahead!

  • Hi Dawn, thanks for the great question. If you want to get leads from social media then my first suggestion would using social media to drive traffic to your content such as ebooks, white papers, video or images that share the value of your company’s products and services, but more importantly, your expertise in a particular industry. Also, in #LikeableChat I’ve seen executive level marketers take an active role in the discussion just as an example. It just depends on what Twitter chat is specific to the audience you’re trying to reach. For instance, here are a few b2b Twitter chats: #b2bchat, #journchat, #agchat, #aptchat, #assnchat, #KMers etc. I hope this helped answer your question!

  • Nikkelle

    Thanks for the insightful information

  • I’ve been more active on Google Communities recently and am interested to see how it affects numbers. Twitter chats are great, especially for building relationships!

  • Thanks for the great info, Brian! I have and plan to use some of these tactics, but I have found that a lot of groups on LinkedIn are filled with “drive-by” posts of personal content. Do you have any suggestions for finding quality discussions and viable sales leads?

  • Great point Tiana! Google Communities are awesome.

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  • Judy Linsz Ross

    Thank you, Brian, for a concise, helpful article!

  • You are welcome, cheers!

  • You are very welcome. Thank YOU for reading! 🙂

  • Hi Sarah, thanks for reading and for being so kind. In terms of quality LinkedIn groups depends on the subject of the group as well as the quality of the discussions and content being shared. I typically search by topic, visit the group and then quickly scroll through the discussions to see if it is a worthwhile time investment. These featured groups are all great quality, find more of this caliber:

  • Zorgy Zorg

    What do you think of TriOrbit Mailer?

  • Amazing Post Brain. Social media provides great business and huge profits. Really a great articles on generating leads through social media. Many people generally use Facebook and Google+ but i just loved the idea of twitter and LinkedIn too. Thank for the post.

  • Mashruf Kabir

    Once again, fantastic content! 🙂

  • Dennis Schiraldi

    All great suggestions however it’s premature to call these leads. Whatever your scoring system the criteria is limited and classifying these as more than a suspect will turn your sales team to question the quality of the leads. I think it’s great to add these to nurture campaigns, unless there’s some indicator that provides you with enough information to qualify. The Twitter & LinkedIn Groups suggestions are really fantastic for a sales person to use as a platform to create relationships in a very noisy world, which I use in my social selling strategy and it works! Good article, nice work!

  • Thanks, Brian. Great summary on how social can help drive leads.
    Social media has given “legs” to engagement. You don’t really need contact information directly from the person, you can just do a quick online search and it’s there. Consistency is key with social, and so is engagement. You have to see it
    as an open forum for conversation. Everyone can chime in, and there’s
    so many ways to offer your products/services, as long as you’re not
    spamming anyone

  • I’m not sure what that as, I’ll have to check it out! Thanks for reading.

  • You are very welcome, thanks for reading Swapan.

  • Thanks as always my friend!

  • I couldn’t agree more Fatima! An open forum for conversation is so important today for continued success online.

  • I hear what you’re saying, especially how operating in groups within each network is a way to help garner more attention for your business. Thanks for the insights and please keep it up with the feedback on future articles.

  • FCP Research

    Does anyone happen to know how to “lockbox” your company’s website? Is there a certain app or program to use or would you have to speak directly to a website programmer? This would be similar to how companies like Rue La La, Zulily, or One King’s Lane require you to sign in before browsing. Thanks for any info on this!

  • Michael Bian

    nice list!

  • Johan Åberg

    I prefer to look at my digital strategy from a marketing funnel where different channels promote different aspects of the marketing funnel. For example, LinkedIn is great in creating conversions for B2B while they still can use Facebook for creating Awareness and promoting traffic within their target groups networks to ultimately create conversions where they want them to happen.

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  • Hi there Brian. I like your tip #2.

    By joining groups, answering questions, and sharing your content, you become a thought leader in your space. LinkedIn is a great place to find entrepreneurs with similar interests. I even gain more friends and connections. It helps me connect with prospective clients.

  • Barbara McKinney

    Thanks for sharing this article Brian! Generate Leads through Social Media is very possible, by joining conversation, participating chat with customers, discuss relevant topics and promoting posts can be a great key to market new products and services. Basically these days Businesses strive to generate quality leads without social Media. Great Ways Brian!