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Most marketing gurus and entrepreneurs agree that using social media is no longer merely a choice in business. It is, rather, a necessary tool for business growth and development. This it true to such an extent that everyone involved in the marketing side of business is expected to be a social media expert. However, being able to navigate social media is a skill all by itself, and understanding how to use social media for lead generation can be a tricky process. That’s why it’s helpful to have someone show you the ropes — which is just what this article is going to do.
Image via Flickr by magicatwork
All social media platforms are organized in essentially the same way: Users (that is, your potential customers) choose content that they wish to follow based on their interests. What this means to you is that you have to create a social media presence worth following. Nothing else can happen for you until you have an audience.
In order to build a following, you have to identify the audience that you want — and be specific! Is it divorced women in their mid-thirties? Male college graduates age 24–30? Teens and college students? Whomever it is that you are trying to reach through social media, your first step is to have content that catches their attention and makes them want to follow you.
There is a fine line between promoting content that is interesting and promoting content that is relevant to your customers and your brand. A cool video of a llama dressed as a pirate might get you a ton of likes and followers, for example, but if you’re not a llama rental company, then the quality of those leads may not be what you’re looking for.
Instead, promote content that is helpful to your target audience. Solve a problem for them in a way that only your business can. If you’re trying to sell people on an idea, the content that you promote should position you as an expert in that field, and eventually, once you build trust with your followers (more on this in a moment), you should be the person they turn to when they have a question about something in your realm of experience. That is what will help you to build quality leads and gain a bunch of followers who might actually benefit from your product or service.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to build a following is to engage daily with your audience. You should post regularly, of course, but it is just as important to engage and interact with the content of other users. Comments, likes, and retweets will go a long way toward helping you build the audience you want. If you are just broadcasting your own stuff, it’s the social media equivalent to taking a megaphone to a business meeting and talking over everyone else. No one likes that guy. And certainly, no one wants to work with that guy.
Image via Flickr by thetaxhaven
Once you have followers who are interested in what you have to say, your goal is to develop relationships with them. You build trust with followers on social media in essentially the same way you do in any new friendship or romantic relationship — by being there when they need you. Be consistent in your posts and engagement, respond to messages promptly, and even initiate contact when it seems appropriate to do so.
For example, if a follower has commented on one of your posts that he has exactly the same problem you are trying to solve or expresses an interest, it is OK to shoot him a quick message via social media to say, “Hey, I hear you have a problem with X. I can help with that. Would you like me to send you more information?”
The key to success with this approach is keeping it casual. Don’t use high-pressure sales tactics via social media messaging, and don’t pester your potential customer by sending repeat messages. Instead, reach out like a friend, be helpful, and answer any questions. If you don’t get a response within a week, it is OK to send one follow-up message, but any more than that is probably a turn-off. You don’t want to push your followers away.
Your primary goal in developing relationships with your followers (aside from learning more about their needs so that you can make your product or service even better) is collecting information. If you can turn them into subscribers of your email newsletter or blog, for example, you are more likely to convert them into sales.
Potential customers may not know that you want them to do this, though, so you should make your request clear. Always be direct and succinct with your followers; they will appreciate it, and you will actually have an easier time explaining yourself in the long run.
One way that many marketers have found success in collecting information from users is by putting premium content behind a gate. On your website, for instance, you might offer an e-book that provides even more help than they are already getting from following you on social media. In order to get this premium information, ask them to send you their email address. If you’re already using social media to find the people who are interested in what you have to offer, this is a logical next step.
Its important to remember that the quality of the leads you get from social media is more important than the quantity. One hundred people following you because they are interested in your product is better than one thousand followers who love your cute pictures of puppies. This is why creating and promoting great, relevant content is probably the most important step to quality lead generation. After that, it is your goal to build trust in your audience and make them come to you when they have a problem, because that is how you ultimately generate sales.