Social Media for Lead Generation: Experts Weigh In

Many small businesses are still not capitalizing on the opportunities available by embracing social media.  Social media cannot only help with brand building and customer relationships but also lead generation.

Social Media for Lead Generation: Experts Weigh InTo help you sort through it all, we’ve reached out to a panel of small business experts and asked them all a single question: “How should small businesses use social media for lead generation?

Below is a collection of their thoughts and perspectives:

Jason Falls

Lead generation is all about the offer. You have to give something to get that contact information. Maybe it’s a free white paper or report. Perhaps its a free webinar. Maybe it’s even a coupon or discount. Whatever it is, the offer has to be compelling enough, and your business has to be interesting enough for people to say, “Yes. I’ll give them my contact info.” And that applies to big or small businesses.
Jason Falls is one of the most in-demand speakers in the social media, public relations and marketing fields. Jason co-author’s and edits Social Media Explorer and recently completed his first book, “No Bullshit Social Media“.

Ann Handley

Publish a blog, and optimize it to generate leads. A lot of companies have blogs, of course, but so often they are sadly under-used. They don’t create the necessary momentum and traction. So how do companies do that, specifically? Here’s some specific advice: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/220244.
Ann Handley is Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and the co-author of “Content Rules

Mike Weinberg

Less than two years ago, I was effectively ignorant and illiterate about social media. Mitch Joel’s great book Six Pixels of Separation served as a loud wake-up call and practical “how to” guide to get started. Today, I am blown away by the number of significant relationships I have solely due to social media – friends, mentors, colleagues, clients and even my book deal, all came from social media activity.

Specifically, I would suggest small businesses use social media to connect with thought leaders and experts within their industry. For the most part, industry leaders who are active in social media tend to be gracious and generous in lending support to others. A lot of social media behavior is driven by an interesting combination of ego, reciprocity and benevolent desire to add value to the community. Follow thought leaders on twitter. Reply or retweet some of their helpful tweets. Visit these expert’s blogs and add a comment. Before you know it, these leaders will be returning the favor and promoting your value-adding content. I have an out of town client that found me because a very popular sales trainer and best selling author used twitter to point people to a blog post of mine. One of her followers read my post and reached out to me for help. Today, that firm is a significant client of mine and I credit 100% of that revenue to my social media investment.

Mike Weinberg leads The New Sales Coach consultancy. He is on a mission to simplify sales and his specialty is new business development. Mike coaches CEOs, sales executives and sales reps for mid-sized companies. Clients engage Mike for sales force turn-arounds and to improve their effectiveness at acquiring new clients. Mike blogs at http://newsalescoach.com and his first book, published by AMACOM, will be released in the fall of 2012.

Gini Dietrich

1. LinkedIn. Do you have a list of five to 10 companies you’d REALLY like to work with? If not, do that exercise right now. Just list three to five and do it in five minutes or less. Now go into LinkedIn and type in the first company name in the search bar. Make sure you click on “companies search” because it’s automatically set on “people search.” Click on the company name and scroll through current and recent employees. Is there anyone listed that is two or three separations from you? Likely there is more than one person. Click on a name and see who you know in common. Then call that person and ask if he/she wouldn’t mind introducing you to the person at your target company. It’s an automatic referral into the company you’re dying to work!

2. Twitter search. Stop what you’re doing and go toTwitter Search. Click on the Advanced Search option (or just click that link) and create a saved search designed to pick up ‘sitting ducks’. For example, if you’re a local mechanic, you may want to set up a search for [brake job], [car inspection] or [oil change]. Set the distance for 25 miles from your place of business and then save the search. Now any time someone in your local area tweets about needing a brake job, a car inspection, or an oil change, you’ll be notified. And then you can reach out to that person. You can also create searches for you competitors and try to steal those conversions away.

3. Twitter Application. Open TweetDeck (if you don’t already use it, download it now – it’s free) and click on the big gray + sign at the top (add column). A box opens and the first in the list is “search.” If it’s not already checked, click on it and, in the white bar, type a competitor’s name, and hit “search.” Now a column pops up and anytime that competitor is mentioned on Twitter, your column is automatically populated.

4. Google Alerts. DO THIS NOW! This is not an option. It is the one thing everyone should have for their business, for their name, for key employees, for competitors, and for the industry.

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, the author of PR and marketing blog Spin Sucks, the founder of the soon-to-be-launched Spin Sucks Pro, and a co-author of the forthcoming Marketing In the Round.

Steve Garfield

The way the question is phrased, makes it sound like you want to put posts on every single social media site you can find, yelling “hey I’ve got this stuff, come buy it!” But that’s not what social media is all about.

Social media is people.

If you are starting every Twitter post with a number like, “5 ways you can improve your business” or “7 steps to writing better blog posts” you are going to get some people who are interested in learning those things, but are they learning about you?

I think the question should be phrased, “how should small business use social media to get to know people.” It goes both ways.

Make-believe it’s a laid-back environment, like a pub, on a Friday night. You’re there to meet some people, see what they’re all about, and let him know what you’re like.

Then, one day they might have a need some help, and remember, oh, I met that guy at the pub, on a Friday night, who likes dark beer, and travel, and can also help me put video on the web. I’m going to call him because I think he’s pretty cool guy.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith

Social media is a multifunctional marketing vehicle and requires alignment to the overall strategic plan and specifically an integrated education based marketing plan. Use those social media platforms where you believe your ideal customer will be. Provide value for your target market by consistently engaging and interacting first. Leave the selling to after the relationship is firmly established. Remember, people (think your sales leads) buy from people they know and trust; buy on first on emotion and buy on value unique to them.
Leanne Hoagland-Smith is Chief Results Officer for ADVANCED SYSTEMS and author of Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits, the Keys to Unlocking Sales Success. She supports forward thinking leaders who want a new status quo, but have trouble leaving the current one. Call Leanne at 219.759.5601 CST or visit www.increase-sales-coach.com

Charles Green

Social media alone won’t generate leads for you; but they can play a critical role. Two critical roles, in fact. One role is to offer a sample of your wares, to let people test-drive whatever it is you do. The second role is to comment on other people’s samples, and in some ways that is even more important.

Of course your content has to be good; but commenting on other people’s content shows that you recognize, respect and care about them. That is a powerful aid to awareness, recognition and lead generation.

Charles Green is founder and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates He specializes in commercial relationships and sales working as a consultant since 1976. Charles is the author of the “Trusted Advisor Fieldbook” and “Trust-Based Selling”

David Brock

Every business needs to make sure its customers and prospects are aware of their products and services. Businesses must make it easy for customers and prospects to find you. To do this, you have to ‘hang out’ where your customers hang out, you have to intercept them where they are, These days, customers and prospects are hanging out on the web, so we have to hang out, engaging them with meaningful content, participating in discussions, and building a community. We also need to recognize social media is just one channel in which we engage our customers and prospects. They may be leveraging other channels, we need to meet them there as well. Lead generation needs to be multi-channel, multi touch, all in a way that constantly builds value for the customer or prospect.
Dave Brock is a consultant and recognized thought leader and is featured in many leading publications, including Selling Power, CEO Express, ThinkSales, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and other journals and publications around the world. His blog, Partners in Excellence, is syndicated in a number of sites globally, and appears in several languages.

Denise O’Berry

Small businesses should use social media as an indirect route to lead generation. That means building one-on-one relationships in addition to driving prospects to a value added online resource or providing a downloadable white paper that will help the prospect solve a problem. Part of the lead generation process should include tactics for capturing the prospect’s email address so a long term relationship can be built with them. It’s important to remember that people buy from people, not companies so using a long term approach to lead generation will yield a bigger pay off for small business.
A small business owner since 1996, Denise O’Berry understands the challenges facing small business. She’s lived them herself and helped hundreds of clients work through the frustrations, fears, and joys of owning a small business. The enthusiasm and ability of small business owners to overcome huge obstacles inspires her. She is continually amazed by all the things small business owners manage to accomplish.

Derek Halpern

“When you want to attract leads to your business—or just plain build an email list—social media should be the last place you go. Especially when you’re first starting out. Instead, you’re better off writing high quality content, reaching out to bloggers who may like that content, and asking them to publish it on their site. That’s a much better source of traffic.”
After building several successful websites in various niches (entertainment, fashion, humor, and more) over the last 5 years, Derek Halpern refocused on what he loves most: Building and Marketing Businesses. He blogs at Social Triggers.

Hank Trisler

In my view trying to use Social Media for lead generation is short-sighted and wrong-headed. There. I’ve said it.

If your only purpose in sharing your thoughts through the internet is to get people to call you, you’ll likely be doomed to disappointment. Those ploys are hopelessly transparent. If, on the other hand, you tell people precisely what you think, and if other people agree with your point of view, they might be inclined to seek you out for further discussion/consultation.

Hank Trisler is a recognized sales strategist author of “No Bull Selling” and “No Bull Sales Management”
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