3 Tips For Using Social Media to Generate Business Leads
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Social media can help your business find and engage with potential customers, but it’s going to require time, investment, and strategy.

Nine out of 10 small businesses use or plan to use social media, according to a study conducted by LinkedIn1. Odds are, your target customer does, too. There are 1.44 billion active users on Facebook2, and that’s just one social network.

“Small businesses thrive on word-of-mouth marketing and customer service,” says John Zanzarella, CMO of Silverback Social, a White Plains, New York-based digital marketing agency. “Social media allows for this in ways that were never possible historically. It’s also a fiscally-responsible way to amplify your brand message.”

But to use social media effectively, you’ll need a plan—and a bit of patience. These three tips will help you develop a digital footprint that creates value for your business and generates quality leads.

1. Create an integrated social media strategy

Begin with a plan that includes your objectives, a content calendar, clear processes, and the key metrics you’ll use to measure success. You don’t need to be present on every single social platform. Take time to determine where your target customers are most active. Be sure the content you develop is in line with your strategy and keeps your audience’s needs and interests in mind.

“A lot of businesses make the mistake of thinking that all they need to do to take advantage of social media is set up accounts on one or two popular social networks, and then fans, followers, customers, and meaningful conversations are just going to pour in. That isn’t the case,” cautions Melissa Musgrove, head of social media for Regions Bank. She advises business owners to consider how social media aligns with their existing strategies. “Social media is just like any other method you develop to acquire customers – it requires a proactive approach and a comprehensive strategy that is built into your overall marketing, sales, and service plan,” she says.

2. Allocate resources

There’s a misconception that social media is free. For marketers, that’s not the case. “Using social media effectively requires investment—in your employees so they can use it effectively, in the creation of quality content, in paid media to generate impressions, and in additional tools for things like social listening, compliance, and integration with existing CRM systems,” says Musgrove.

“Educate stakeholders, and manage expectations,” advises Zanzarella. “A business shouldn’t expect to see a jump in sales the day after it launches a Facebook page.”

He suggests focusing on the consistent creation of quality content that drives engagement with your audience. “Once you have built an engaged audience, you can begin to experiment with more calls-to-action,” he says. “Analyze the results, and readjust your strategy accordingly. When you are running like a well-oiled machine and have data to back up decisions, start putting media dollars behind your posts.”

That last point is important. Facebook company pages’ organic reach (the percentage of followers who see your posts in their news feed) has been diminishing. This is in part because you’re competing with an ever-growing volume of content, and because Facebook made changes to its algorithm. Once you have an idea of the type of content that performs well with your followers, consider investing in the promotion of key posts to ensure they reach more of your audience.

3. Measure your social efforts

Measuring the effectiveness of social media can be challenging. Start by observing engagement stats such as comments, likes, shares, and click-through rates. Note how social media affects traffic to your website and what percentage of traffic ultimately leads to conversion, for example, a visitor clicking a link to request more information about your company. In time, you’ll understand how many leads are generated via social media, the quality of those leads, and how these stats compare with other tactics used to generate business.

1.LinkedIn Small Business Survey, in partnership with TNS, November 2013, http://blog.linkedin.com/2014/02/25/the-year-of-the-social-small-business-infographic/

2. “Facebook reports first quarter 2015 results,” April 2015, Facebook Investor News, http://investor.fb.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=908022

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This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Information provided and statements made by employees of Regions should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation. Information provided and statements made by individuals who are not employees of Regions are the views, opinions, or positions of the individual who made the statement and do not necessarily reflect the policies, views, opinions, and positions of Regions. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented.