Small business owners aren’t usually on social media to share cat videos and indulge in celebrity gossip. They’re on social media for business. They do social media to gain exposure, but ultimately the goal is to get more business. Getting more business usually means getting more leads.

Unfortunately, getting leads from social media is not so easy. If you’re doing well at it, pat yourself on the back. Most marketers struggle with getting social media to work well for lead generation.

7 ways for small businesses to generate leads with social media

That’s what Ascend2 discovered when they tallied up the results of a lead generation survey of 300 marketers last month. Only 26% of the marketers they surveyed marked social media as among their more effective lead generation tactics.

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That’s definitely not a sweep for social media as a lead gen channel. But it’s interesting how one in four marketers is getting ample leads from social media. What are those 26% doing that other marketers aren’t?

How to be in the top 26%

According to Social Media Examiner’s 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, one thing they’re doing is putting in more time. According to that study, most of the marketers getting enough leads from social media were putting in six or more hours a week into social media. They also tended to have more than a year’s experience doing it.

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Alright, then. So maybe it takes a bit more than social media 101 skills to get leads from social media. Maybe it takes some time. Or maybe there are some advanced techniques that are more effective than just posting a lot.

Ends up, there are. We found them. Try even a couple of these seven tactics, and you should see more leads from social soon.

There is one thing I should tell you. Many of these lead gen tactics are different spins on one core strategy: Be helpful. Ends up just simply being helpful what separates the marketers generating lots of leads from the ones not getting too many.

So we’re going to start with answering questions as a lead generation technique. Answering questions is a pretty straightforward way to be helpful.

1. Answer questions.

There’s no shortage of places on the web to answer questions. There are sites dedicated entirely to questions and answers, like Quora, Ask or Stack Exchange. But major social media sites also generate questions and answers all the time. Linked groups are often a question and answer format. So are Facebook groups and forums.

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Wishpond recently published a great post about exactly what they do to generate leads from Quora. Try taking as planned and dedicated an approach to answering questions as they do. Stick with it for a month or more and you might find a nice new source of leads.

2. Deliver the best most useful content you can.

Want to get people to follow you? Be useful. Want to get lots of engagement from your posts? Be useful. Want to get people signing up as leads and moving through your sales funnel fast? Be useful.

Distill your entire social media strategy down to “Be useful”. Your audience isn’t really interested in anything that can’t help them. Any more than 10% of self-promotion in your content marketing will cause them to tune you out.

So what does this mean in practice? Usually, it means stepping back from selling and promoting yourself so much. It may also mean you have to change how you’ve been creating content.

If you have to create a bit less content in order to make it really good and 99% useful, that’s fine. If you have to curate content a bit to fill in the gaps so you are always delivering A+ content, that’s fine too.

Robert Rose, The Content Marketing Institute’s Chief Strategy Officer, recently said, “We need to create the minimum amount of content for the maximum amount of impact.”

That’s a goal we all should aim for. It requires quality content, though. You’ve got to be creating or sharing or curating content that’s useful enough that you would share it if it wasn’t actually your job. That’s where your audience is coming from.

3. Reach out directly to clients and prospects.

We talk a lot about personas in marketing today. It’s because relevancy is so critical to capturing and holding peoples’ attention. There is so much content out there – the “content shock” you’ve heard of – if content isn’t relevant to someone, they won’t keep reading it. Content that isn’t relevant to your audience just wastes their time.

You may not be able to customize a message to every person who follows you on social media, but with some planning and some good tools, you can identify at least a few people who are worth nurturing on a one-to-one level.

The trick is to do it in phases. That way you won’t come off as pushy or creepy. Everybody hates the sales pitches we get on LinkedIn from people we barely know. Those won’t work. But if you can start liking and sharing a person’s updates. Then maybe commenting on their blog or their social media updates. Then you might want to tell them about an article you know they’d like.

Does this take time? You bet. And if you don’t have a large lifetime value for each customer, it may not be worth your time. But if you are selling high-ticket items, spending a few hours hand-nurturing a few leads might pay off handsomely.

There’s a big new opportunity for doing this on Twitter now that the 144 character limitation on direct messages has been lifted. Just don’t abuse it. Build your leads slowly and thoughtfully, the same way you’d build a business partnership.

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4. Curate content.

You don’t have to do all the content curation yourself. It’s okay – and even good – to add content from other sources to your social feeds. Of course, give people credit when you share their stuff. And add a bit of your own commentary to the update. This helps with context, makes you look like an authority, and makes it more your own.

So how does lead generation fit into this? Well, we wrote a whole post on that awhile back, but the gist is that you can use curated content to generate leads in pretty much the same way you use your own content to generate leads.

There is one trick to it, though. When you create the link you’ll be sharing, use your ScoopIt account (it’s free) so people will be brought to a landing page that has your branding on it.

5. Paid advertising

This is not everybody’s favorite way to get leads on social. It costs money – often a lot of money. But using Twitter ads or LinkedIn ads or ads on any other platform is definitely a legitimate way to get more leads.

Typically lead generation ads like this offer a free resource in exchange for contact information. Once you’ve got that contact information, you start sending more valuable information. If you’re smart, you use marketing automation to track how your new leads interact with what you send them. Then you tailor later messages based on those responses.

6. Promoting gated content

This is very similar to the paid approach, but here you’re not paying for exposure, you’re just announcing available free resources to your existing social media audience.

This is one of the most common ways small businesses get leads online. It’s the essence of content marketing: Attract attention to your brand through useful, relevant content. This helps you build trust with your audience through your excellent content. So when you do offer them a “gated” resource (ie, they have to give you contact information to get it) they trust you enough to follow through.

Here’s an example of gated content that’s been promoted on social. We just published a new ebook, so we’re announcing that on all our social media channels:

If you click through on that post, you’ll be sent to a landing page where you can download the ebook… after you’ve given us your contact information. (Which, by the way, is a great deal because the book is really good and helpful and we’ll never send you anything but relevant, useful emails. Promise!)

7. Use video.

The Internet is headed toward video, if it’s not already there. Just look at Facebook’s recent moves in the video realm. Or how YouTube is the second largest search engine. Or the stratospheric rise of Periscope.

Video is hot. Adding more videos to your social media work, whether it’s on Facebook or LinkedIn, Twitter or SlideShare, will get you more eyeballs and more followers. It can also get you more leads.

Addicted2Dance, an Australian dance studio, generates leads on YouTube by posting testimonials from its star clients.

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What about you?

Whether you use one or all of these techniques to create more leads, I encourage you to try at least one technique that you haven’t tried before. Why do this? Because social media is always changing. Even if you gave a certain tactic a spin a few years ago, it might be time to try it again. You’ll probably have learned a lot since you last tried it, so your new skills might make it more likely to work.

 

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