Social media has been through its iterations. What started as a place for college kids to share pictures of each other from last weekend (Facebook in 2006) has become a place for retirees to share parody news stories under the impression that they are 100 percent real (Facebook in 2018). Along the way we’ve gained thousands a few platforms — Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter being obvious mainstays — and lost a few as well (R.I.P. MySpace, Friendster and Google+. We hardly knew ye).
Likewise, how businesses use social media has evolved. Traditionally, the professional environment of social media has focused on the promotional capabilities of those channels, meaning businesses have used social media platforms to push information out to the masses. However, a recent trend popping up in B2B social media usage is using these platforms to generate information and business, mostly in the way of leads. You’ve probably seen this in dozens of emails offering social media lead generation training. “This training will teach you to use LinkedIn and Facebook to make hundreds of new connections with a targeted audience to increase your qualified sales calls and spend more time selling and less time prospecting.”
We get emails like this all the time as well, and I must say it’s pretty brazen — asking a marketing company that does social media if they want to spend money to let another business do their social media for them. These emails conjure the same questions and disbelief that one gets when watching a late-night infomercial: “Does that really work? There’s no way that works.”
To answer the question, yes, it does work, but like any as-seen-on-TV product, it can easily become a product that you purchase, use once and then put in the linen closet where it will never see the light of day again.
These social media lead generation programs are great tools when used correctly. They can get you in touch with hundreds of new, highly targeted prospects, but they take up time, a lot of time, which is why most businesses give up on them quickly. To get the most out of these programs there needs to be a near daily commitment to sending connection requests, posting content and messaging about 150 connections. If you have the time or a person on your team who has the time, these can be great methods to bringing in new leads. If not, consider finding a service that will handle those day-to-day tasks for you. If that’s the route you chose, make sure you do your research before choosing a partner:
- Who have they worked with? Try to get a sense of the businesses these “lead generation experts” have worked with. Do they mention any of them on their website? Do they have any past or current clients that are a similar business to yours? Have they had any success with those businesses? If you’re, say, a manufacturer, you’ll just want to be sure they have experience with and understand the manufacturing sales journey.
- Do they have any testimonials? No social proof or lack of testimonials on their website might tell you the businesses is in its infancy, and they’re just trying to pick up on this trend. This would also tell you they didn’t run any pilot programs or test accounts and just jumped right into it. A lack of testimonials probably equals a lack of experience.
- What kind of on-boarding processes is involved? You’ll want to look for a business that will give you at least a two-hour sit-down education and discovery session when on boarding. This background information will be necessary for them to fully understand your business, needs, challenges and goals. Without this session, they won’t be able to effectively optimize your social media profiles or make the best connections.
- Will they give you a sample list of connection requests? A samples list will act as proof for you that the partner you’re working with understands who your prospects are. If the list comes back filled with employee titles that are all over the map and not the type of people you’re trying to connect with, you can be sure they don’t understand your sales process.
- Where is the business located? We’ve seen some located in India. In my personal opinion, there’s just no way a group half a world away will be able to be as connected with you as the group that is in your home city or close by and can be reached easily during normal business hours. Look for a business that can give you a personal connection.
It’s always important to do your homework before working with any new partner, but it may be even more crucial with these types of businesses, many of whom are some fly-by-nights just trying to get in on the social media lead generation trend.
For those having trouble determining your target prospects, take a look at why it’s more critical than ever to know your audience.