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While just about every business is talking "social" these days, we know making it work for demand marketers is a tough nut to crack. But after reading these articles, interviews and resources, you'll be ready to start building social into your demand generation strategy.
What Do You Mean by "Social" Demand Generation?
Maybe you're familiar with demand generation, but what's with this "social demand" thing?
By demand generation we mean the strategies and tools marketing uses to identify prospects, nurture them and turn them into leads. In today's business environment, where buyers can access a seemingly unlimited amount of resources about your brand and industry, understanding prospects' preferences and needs by capturing their online behavior has become a critical aspect of the demand professional's job.
The rise of social media is giving marketers a new way to engage potential buyers all the way through each stage of the journey. While many organizations use social to drive brand awareness, employing it to move leads through the funnel has lagged. With social tools and methodologies, organizations can get a fuller picture of all the actions that lead a prospect to buy – the conversations they carry out with peers, the content they share and whom they trust.
With a social demand generation strategy, marketing can organically extend the reach of their campaigns, see who is influencing their prospects and pass high-value data to sales.
Why Should My Business Care About Social Demand Generation?
Social media has become dominant, not only in life but in business. The statistics are staggering. YouTube is second only to Google when it comes to search. About every two seconds someone joins LinkedIn. If Facebook were a country, it would be bigger than the U.S.
There's a good chance you've felt the pressure to "go social." Well, marketers must find a way to incorporate social into demand gen or risk falling behind.
There's evidence that this is already happening. According to a recent study by research firm Aberdeen Group, 41% of Best-in-Class companies have integrated social media with their lead management and lead scoring efforts compared with 27% of average companies.* And 33% of those Best-in-Class companies have integrated social profile data into their customer or prospect records.
High performing businesses are clearly seeing success incorporating social media into demand generation efforts. One likely reason is because social offers accessible solutions to many of the most enduring problems facing demand marketers. With social you can go beyond collecting titles and industry data to see buyers' preferences, interests and influences. And social tools are making it easier to lower barriers to conversion and to turn prospects into content evangelists, who can aid you in organically growing your database.
*Aberdeen sets a high bar for Best-in-Class companies, defining them as businesses who cite 20% annual revenue growth, 10% annual growth in marketing leads that result in closed business, 44% of sales-forecasted pipeline leads contributed by marketing and at least a 73% annual customer retention rate.
What Holds Demand Gen Marketers Back from Social?
If social is so promising, what's holding demand gen back?" you might ask. Good question.
While social has become the darling of PR types, their demand counterparts require more measurable pipeline results to build the case. 47% of marketers are looking to expand lead generation through social media, Aberdeen Group found. But many marketers need to directly tie social to concrete business results before diving in. The top questions social media marketers want answered center around how to measure, target, engage and sell with social, according to an annual study by Social Media Examiner.
Demand marketers need answers to these questions before they fully dive into social.
How Sage Went Social in Just One Year
Sage Software faced the same perplexing problem familiar to many established organizations. The company, which sells business management for a diverse range of industries, needed to establish a social media presence that would drive results for their Human Resources products, and fast.
For Sage, success meant following six fundamental, if not ambitious, steps.
Outline Clear Goals
The team at Sage didn't create a Facebook page just to collect "Likes". They set out with specific goals: develop a content creation process that would feed their social engagement, focus on joining the conversation prospects and customers were having in the HR field, and reach the influencers in that space.
Find the Audience
Needing to find the right people, Sage conducted a social media audit for the HR space, identifying more than 80,000 relevant posts, articles and targets to engage.
Pick the Platforms
Rather than diluting their efforts across every available social outpost, Sage focused all its efforts on creating a branded presence on the four most relevant channels for HR conversations: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Identify the Influencers
Crafting content and publishing posts isn't enough. To gain credibility, Sage developed a methodology for identifying and reaching out to the key influencers in the HR social space, leveraging tools like Klout. Sage took a phased approach by targeting the top 25 influencers in their industry first, and then expanded their outreach by looking at topics and keywords being discussed in the social graph related to HR.
Turn on the Tools
Sage employed a socially savvy content management system that returns detailed analytics and a marketing automation platform that enables them to track referrals from those key social channels.
The company drew up guidelines for the day-to-day management of content development, social monitoring and measurement. They put together a dashboard that collected the growth of the most important metrics, such as the number of leads generated and the cost per lead. With the right amount of preparation, outreach and action, Sage was able to go from no social media presence to outpacing the competition in just one year.
How to Make Social Work for Demand Generation
It's one thing to create a Facebook page or buy ads on Twitter. But smart marketers know lead generation requires more than scheduling Tweets or joining LinkedIn groups.
Demand generation, after all, is about translating your social trust equity and thought leadership cache into genuine interest in your products or services. Social media can be an effective way to accomplish that goal. But you can't expect to just plug into a couple of apps and see success. You need a roadmap.
The following steps provide a practical framework for using social to drive demand.
Start with Awareness
First, find out what your target customers are talking about on the social Web, who the key influencers are, and where these conversations are taking place. There's little value in having a huge presence on a social channel if your market isn't tuned in.
Similarly, there's no point in speaking up if you don't have something to say. Buyers are discovering content through social, not just search. Produce the kind of content that your key audience will want to share, paying particular attention to the style and formats that are more likely to get passed around. Adding components like streaming Twitter lists, YouTube videos and Facebook comments to your landing pages and microsites can add social stickiness to your content.
Engage Your Leads
Consider joining Twitter chats or LinkedIn groups centered on the topics impacting your industry. Place your content on platforms like Facebook and Google+. But do it in a way that starts a conversation rather than just broadcasting a message. For instance, ask a thoughtful question instead of shouting, "Look at this!"
Make it easy to share your marketing by embedding social sharing tools so your prospects and customers can serve as
brand ambassadors, helping introduce your messagesto new contacts. The connection between your marketing – such as landing pages, microsites and articles – and the buyer's social network should be seamless.
It's important to not only attract leads, but to uniquely engage the people who influence their buying decisions. Tools like Klout and PeerIndex can help you discover the key influencers in your space, or the people your leads have identified as trusted sources. The endorsement from these influencers can result in faster conversions.
Enrich Your Data
You can then capture additional data by analyzing which social channels are driving traffic to your existing marketing assets (i.e. website, landing pages, etc.), and then continue capturing the additional actions those leads take from there.
And tools like social sign-on are catching on. In fact, 21% of Best-in-Class companies are using it, according to Aberdeen Group. Not only does social sign-on make it much faster for visitors to complete a form registration, it also gives you permission-based access to social data you can append to your database. This data is particularly helpful for segmentation and lead scoring – and your sales rep will thank you for supplying valuable info before they call on a hot lead.
Measure, Again and Again
Over time, you'll be able to see how social campaigns stack up against traditional marketing campaigns. New tools and platforms make it possible to close the loop on socially shared campaigns and signed deals. With social data, you can concentrate your time, money and energy on the channels and tactics that are producing real demand.
Can You Really Use Social to Sell? An Interview with IBM's Sandy Carter
Chances are you've heard the term "social business" batted around lately. Wondering what exactly it means?
Sandy Carter, Vice President of Social Business Evangelism and Sales at IBM, actually wrote the book on the subject. The author of Get Bold: Using Social Media to Create a New Type of Social Business shares her insight on how organizations are using social to drive real demand, close deals and transform the way business is done.
Q. Your title at IBM is VP of Social Business Evangelism and Sales? Can social really be used to sell?
A. IBM is a "ROE" company – return on everything. We don't do anything if it doesn't generate a return for our business. We actually worked with McKinsey & Company on a report that asked, "Will it make a difference to insert social into a business process?" The study showed that, on average, companies that inserted social into a particular area of focus saw that segment grow by 15%. Inserting social into customer service improved response by 18%. If you don't think that positively impacts your sales and marketing, then you're not in the business world today.
Q. Many businesses are using social for PR or support. Generating actual leads has proven a tougher. What holds back demand marketers from social?
A. I talk to a lot of C-level executives. In a lot of cases they still believe social is something that their kids do. I was with a CEO the other day, who told me that his company had "opted out" of social. You can't opt out of social. You can choose not to dialogue with your clients, but your clients and competitors are still going to talk about you.
Q. What can you learn about buyers by using social?
A. You can tell sentiment about a product, service, a company or a category. If a person buys one product, do they have a propensity to buy other products? You can find out who are the influencers in your category. You can find out whether something seemingly hot today will last.
It's like eavesdropping around the water cooler. You're really looking at what people do versus what they say.
Q. Trust seems crucial here. How can marketers leverage social trust?
A. Based on our research, areas of trust really come out of three critical phases. It's being open and transparent. So sharing information, not withholding or deceiving. There are lots of examples online where companies have done that and they've been crucified for it.
It has to do with being responsive and consistent. I was recently upset with a company I tried to reach out to via Twitter. It took that company six months to respond. That's just too slow.
And finally, it's subject matter expertise. Small companies, medium companies, large companies generate that trust by sharing knowledge, by adding value. My dry cleaner doesn't use social to talk about his dry cleaning store. He talks about how to remove stains. Social feels like magic to a lot of people. But in essence it's just back to basics.
Q. Let's say I'm sold on social. How do I sell it within my company?
A. We provide people with lots of examples – examples in their industry or examples in their country. And we arm that person to provide value to their senior team. You can get a champion at the higher level by constantly talking about the value proposition, the other companies using social, and maybe even doing a small pilot. At IBM before we did big things with social, we tried small things. And we measured everything. You can do that at any level of the organization. Start building up the case studies for yourself.
5 Tools for Connecting Social with Demand
Social Sharing Buttons make it easier for leads to push your content to their connections on various social networks. You can include these on your website, blog and landing pages without taking up too much space. Buttons exist for a wide variety of platforms – from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and Google+.
Social Sign-On cuts down barriers to conversion by allowing prospects to skip the long forms you require for a gated offer. You still get the data, and the prospect saves time and effort. There are social sign-on tools that pull data from platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. This provides valuable data points like associations, skills, and number of connections or followers. You can better segment and score leads, sending relevant content to them based on what association they belong to, their job skills or even by how influential they are. Tip: by adding one additional form field for email to social sign-on, you can easily connect social identities to existing contacts in your database.
Social Plug-ins show prospects who in their social networks have interacted with your websites, blogs and online content. Facebook and Google+ make badges you can add to your website or blog displaying how many people, and who in their network, have endorsed your offer. You can also easily add Twitter lists and searches to landing pages so leads can see the conversations around your content.
You can add Facebook details to webinar registration pages so potential buyers can see if any of their peers have signed up. These relatively simple tools are a cost-effective way to establish trust early on in the discovery and education phase.
Influence Measurement tools come in many shapes and sizes. Brands range from highly specialized to one network (such as Twitter), while others are more expansive. Klout is probably the best known. It grabs data from a variety of social networks (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc.) and assigns a score from 1 to 100 on an individual's influence on the social Web, as well as who they influence. Other tools like PeerIndex, TweetLevel and PostRank carry out similar functions. This data can be valuable for understanding a lead's influence on others.
Social Measurement is something many vendors claim to carry out. Tools like Radian6 and Vocus, for instance, are used to help monitor what people are saying about particular brands and topics, and to conduct sentiment analysis. These tools can be vital for informing the awareness step of social demand generation.
10 Touch Points for a Socially Savvy Contact Strategy
It's no small feat to get your message in front of the right people at the right time. But imagine trying to reach a highly specialized audience when your top competitor has a bigger budget, a bigger sales force and a big head start in the market.
Companies want to combine social media tactics with traditional demand generation to not only counter negative buzz from competitors marketing campaigns and sales team, but also proactively build positive momentum and thought leadership.
Here's the blueprint for their integrated contact strategy:
1. Industry events: Engage key influencers in person to demonstrate the product, and seed positive word of mouth. Engage in and share lively Twitter streams.
2. Influencer blogs and forums: Participate by providing relevant, data-rich content and comment or respond when appropriate.
3. PR: Reach out to reporters and bloggers covering the category with personalized pitches and exclusive access to data.
4. Online media: Drive awareness and generate leads through content syndication.
5. Social networks: Respond to conversations, answer questions and share content.
6. Demand-centric website: Showcase content and capture information about visitors, through Web analytics and/or registration forms.
7. Newsletter and social opt-in: Invite followers and site visitors to subscribe to newsletter and social feeds. Include optional social contact fields in addition to email.
8. Nurture via email and social channels: Stay in touch with responders until they indicate interest or intent to purchase.
9. Telemarketing/sales: Once someone registers for decision-stage content or requests contact, follow up with a sales call. If you have social contact data, reach out via Twitter or LinkedIn.
10. Encourage advocacy: Empower trial users and customers to share their successes by recording short videos that can be posted on YouTube or embedded in a blog. Push that to social channels.
Carmen Hill is Social Media Strategist at Babcock & Jenkins, a B2B marketing agency and Eloqua partner.
The Radian6 Social Strategy Blog – Great advice for social strategy from the social media monitoring company.
Social Media Examiner – All kinds of case studies, white papers and daily updates on social media for business.
Social Media B2B – Social media topics and discussions covered from a strictly B2B perspective.
Altimeter Research on SlideShare – Altimeter Research produces a large quantity of research on social media and business. And they make available, for free, on SlideShare.
The Social Media ProBook – Eloqua assembled 20 social media marketing experts to share their advice on many topics, from influencing influencers to scaling your efforts, in this free ebook.
The 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report – A number of valuable insights and emerging practices from the industry.
B2Bbloggers – Aggregating content from over 1,200 B2B blogs to provide marketers with fast access to the vast amount of B2B marketing content on the web.
The Klout Blog – Gives insight into how influence is mapped across the social Web.
Social CRM Insider – Weekly insights into social CRM and social data practices, with a twist of humor.