Yesterday, I described the important role that strong, risk-mitigating brands plays in inbound lead generation. This is where B2B social media marketing comes in, since it provides a way for any company, not just large multi-national corporations, to build strong brands that in turn generate quality inbound leads.
Here are four key ways that social media builds brands.
1. Social media can increase your awareness. As I wrote in 5 Ways B2B Marketing Professionals Can Leverage Social Media, social media lets you publish your company’s best practices and expertise without the need to get past gatekeepers such as editors and traditional media. In social media, the gatekeepers are your peers, and the quality of your content and ideas determines what gets promoted. Really good content can be distributed widely – and when prospective buyers read your content they are also learning about your company and the problems you solve.
2. Social media can build your reputation as a thought leader. This matters because thought leadership is a great way to build your brand. Buyers trust thought leaders who can demonstrate they understand buyer problems and how to solve them. While a reputation of thought leadership will never be as “risk-reducing” as a personal referral, it is a great way to build awareness and increase your chances that the prospect will respond to future demand generation efforts.
3. Social media can encourage promoters. Word of mouth is perhaps the best way to generate leads, since buyers trust referrals from their peers more than any other source of information. Fred Reichheld and Bain find that the company with the highest Net Promoter Score in an industry typically grows more than 2.5X faster than their competitors. Social media can help create promoters in three ways.
- Social media can help people share the “remarkable expectation-beating experiences” they have with your company. This can be via reviews on third-party sites (such as the salesforce.com AppExchange), the responses people make to queries on LinkedIn groups of Twitter, the posts customers and prospects share on your own community, or a variety of other ways customers can interact with other prospects.
- Social media can actually create the experiences that people want to talk about. Great content, a funny video, a useful tool – they can all be things that people want to share with other prospective customers. Although this isn’t always promoting your solution directly, there is a brand “spillover” effect that gives credence to your company.
- Social media can make it easy to share on your site (e.g., one click share), and it can make the referrals more relevant since directly shared links come from a trusted friend or colleague.
4. Social media can build your SEO ranking. Buyers tend to trust the companies with the top rankings on a Google search. Whether or not they comprehend the mechanics of ranking, buyers understand the wisdom of crowds is at work in determining the top rankings. Since inbound links are the currency of ranking, social media can play a huge role in building your organic ranks – both as a source of links via the content on your blog, etc., as well as a way to promote your content and encourage other inbound links.
The action item for marketers from this is obvious: take some of the budget that you would normally allocate to trade shows, list purchases and other lower-performing demand generation investments and allocate it to generating great content and the efforts to promote it. By getting your company’s expertise out there, you create broad awareness and affinity for your brand, and this will translate into quality inbound lead generation.