Social Media Marketing — 6 Steps to Success

Chief Marketing Officers are looking for innovative techniques to fill the top of the funnel with targeted leads, and social media marketing offers a unique opportunity that many are considering within a broader integrated marketing mix.

In fact, social media spending as a percentage of marketing budgets is forecast to more than double according to research from the American Marketing Association and Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. Their research report titled The CMO Survey found that companies are increasing their social media spend from 8.4% to 21.6% of the total marketing budget over the next five years.

Social marketing is one tenant of a social CRM strategy. Other tenants include social selling and social service, and social CRM should also support the overarching company social strategy – so as to not limit social goals to just the Customer Relationship Management objectives. That's a lot of social stuff, so for this blog post I'm going to focus on sharing some social marketing techniques to acquire more leads for the sales team and earn more revenues for the company.

6 Methods to Get More Leads & Revenues


Build a Social Presence

You have to get social before you can use social. Simply jumping into social networks without having your own social presence comes across as something of a nomad, or even worse, simply looking to exploit other people's social properties for your own gains.

It's also important to recognize that B2B buyers are increasingly selecting vendors that are social. These buyers want vendors that share information beyond the website collaterals, and share resources who talk candidly and beyond the corporate speak, and who engage in two way conversations or deliver customer service over social channels.

I recommend first talking to your existing customers to understand the social channels where they most participate, then building a social presence on the social networks that your customers most frequent, and then steadily expanding your social presence across the top 5 hybrid B2C and B2B social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and SlideShare), as well as Pinterest and Instagram if you’re in a B2C industry.


Engage in Social Listening and Response

Every day there are over 300 million tweets about companies, products and services. This figure grows exponentially when considering Twitter is but one social network of many. It's quite likely that a very small but nonetheless material percentage of this social commenting is buyers seeking advice, referrals and information for products or services which you sell. To acquire more leads, you need to meet these buyers in the social channels where they are communicating.

To detect these buyer opportunities, deploy a social listening tool which automatically searches the social web for specific company and product keywords which identify buyer inquiries, and then capture, categorize, prioritize and route those buyers' online social questions and comments to inside sales for qualification and response. When responding, it's critical to recognize the reply should offer advice, information or help – and not be a sales pitch.

Having deployed these tools many times I'm the first to admit that getting the intended results (qualified leads) is harder than it sounds. Cutting through the noise, getting clean signals, removing intra-industry conversations and filtering social comments for lead gen purposes is difficult primarily due to tone, sentiment and specificity challenges.

Techniques to overcome these challenges include using highly specific (long tail) keywords designed in the context of intelligent search queries (i.e., using masking and wildcards) and targeted by social channel type or category. I've found that a combination of intelligent keywords with negative keywords produce more targeted results when organized by buy cycle phase (Awareness, Interest/Evaluation and Purchase) and when accompanying "indicator" descriptors which filter conversations based on intentions (e.g., switch, evaluate, purchase) and product or service attributes such as price, quality, or customer service.

I've also had particularly strong success when focusing on competitor keywords, and using keyword phrases such as my company name next to a competitor name, with accompanying words such as 'buy', 'compare' and 'switch'.

Using the right tool also makes a world of difference. Having used many low cost tools, as well as high priced tools such as Salesforce's marketing clouds, Microsoft’s NetBreeze and Oracle’s Social Cloud listening tool, I can attest that while they pursue common processes, they each take very different tacts to get there – and offer very different capabilities and levels of refinement. You may find that the best tool to identify your best leads isn't the one that comes from your CRM software provider.


Social Advertising

Marketing on social networks, sometimes called social commerce, must be extremely targeted to deliver an ROI. The typical social media spray and pray digital marketing approach is a proven money loser.

Social ads by themselves deliver disappointing results — generally achieving conversions of .05-1% as compared to 2-3% for search and 3.5-4.5% for email. However, when targeting social ads to known prospects or anonymous visitors that have perused your website, the conversion rates more than double.

There are lead gen tools which use the social networks API to place highly specific social ads in front of your CRM leads and sales prospects (those in the Middle of the Funnel) social network account news feeds, activity feeds and ad displays.

A good example of this is the Facebook Exchange (FBX) Custom Audiences which allows marketers to deliver contextual social ads to known prospects (i.e., those leads and prospects in your CRM system). You can create exports of leads, prospects and customers from your CRM system to the FBX however that would get laborious as this is something to be performed near daily. Better to create an automated integration between your CRM software and the social network.

There are a few ways to target (Top of the Funnel) anonymous visitors with social ads that reflect the products or services that they reviewed on your website. You can either capture their digital footprints using your marketing automation system or you can serve these leads contextual social ads by placing a pixel on any given webpage and then use the FBX to link that webpage with the anonymous visitors social network account.

The result is that the anonymous visitor will see your brand, or the particular product they checked out on your website, in their news feed or right column ad display. Recognize this technique is not the same as search engine retargeting which is dependent upon search results pages and Google Ads used by network advertisers.

When a buyer goes to your website to check you out, but doesn't register or engage, each additional display of your company and offer increases CTRs (click through rates) and the likelihood the buyer will ultimately engage. I've used these techniques many times and they’ve shown a solid capability to acquire high value leads for a low cost per lead.


Promote Social Propagation

Word of mouth referrals are the best form of marketing bar none, and now social marketing tools are available to effectively facilitate the online equivalent of word of mouth recommendations delivered in a one-to-many distribution pattern that travels 24 x 7. These tools generally launch campaigns in social networks using components or widgets to attract engagement and sharing among recipients to extend reach into cascading social spheres.

Social networks offer an extremely scalable and unique opportunity whereby messaging and content that gets shared, exchanged and socialized among social communities becomes one in the same. For example, in my Marketo review I shared how the company's Social Boost solution uses online apps such as polls, sweepstakes and contests to entice people to engage with and share content they find interesting.

And because the new social marketing capabilities are tightly integrated with the company's flagship marketing automation system, social marketing can be included as a flight in a more traditional drip campaign or multiple social marketing flights can be assembled in a social nurture campaign.


Engage Social Influencers

Thought leaders are social by nature. As part of your social marketing strategy, use social tools to identify and prioritize social influencers and then engage those opinion leaders for relationship building. Based on good relationships and shared content, these people can comment on or extend your messaging or content through their high volume channels to dramatically increase reach.


Measure Social Impact

Most social listening tools are very adept at detecting your marketing strength, presence, reach and Share of Voice by key criterion such product, service, target market, vertical market and geography.

Dashboards display trends, spikes, anomalies and KPIs along with analytics that show where your social marketing is making progress in the social sphere, and where more work remains to be done.

Four Final Thoughts

With all things social, listen before you talk. Each social channel has its own norms and protocols. Failing to recognize these etiquettes will lessen your engagement and negatively impact your marketing objectives. Pursue a progressive approach to listen, analyze, enrich (adding social context), engage and then comment or publish.

Second, and speaking of objectives, social business is just business and social marketing only works if it achieves (regular) marketing objectives. Social business objectives which are not directly correlated to new customer acquisitions, up-sell of existing customers or specific revenue creation will not support a sustainable social marketing program. Don't make the mistakes of creating new social objectives to measure your social program and don't use activity-based or vanity metrics (the number of reads, likes, fans, etc.) to measure your business results.

Third, social is not about technology, it's a communication shift from push-based, monologue distributions to (two way) dialogues which achieve conversation and collaboration. For most businesses, social business is a cultural shift to engage customers in an open and transparent environment.

And finally, social brings a new channel to Customer Relationship Management strategy and technology. Make no mistake, your customers are social, and increasingly engaged in social networks. So if you wish to engage your customers, you will need to meet them where they communicate. Waiting for them to come to your communications channels is an open invitation for one of your more forward thinking competitors to engage your customers while you sit on the sidelines oblivious to the customer churn about to take place around you.