When we read about the impact of Social Media in Marketing, we see mostly one of two extremes:
- Social Media is just another media (nothing changes) or;
- Social Media changes Marketing (everything changes)
We live in the real world. So, what is the impact of Social Media in Lead Generation programs for SMB?
It is all about Media
The core difference between Social Media and Classical Media (print, broadcast, static websites) is that the latter is uni-directional. Print, Radio, Television, E-mail and early Web allowed inexpensive broadcast of messages to a large audience, but did not provide the channels for customer participation and for audience peer-to-peer interaction.
Social Media, however, can support more engagement between all participants. The media mix is moving away from Print, E-mail, static Web and towards Dynamic Web and Social Media. The shift is gradual but, because Social Media is fundamentally different, it has effects beyond a simple change of channels.
Marketing Campaigns will be smaller and more targeted
In theory, with Social Media, there is no need for discrete “campaigns”. Lead Generation is a continuous process of prompting and watching for signs of readiness. We need to engage to the external world through social media and listen.
But in the real world, we still need to execute the same proven steps we have learned over the years: select target audience, push message, listen for signals of readiness, measure and capture response, nurture, convert.
With Social Media, campaigns will be smaller, more targeted and less intrusive. A lot of the campaign execution will move closer to the sales process. Let’s see specifically how.
Defining Target Audience
The first step in running a campaign is to segment the population to target the most promising group of prospects. Traditionally, we use location, organizational title, industry segments parameters to do that.
The effect of Social Media is that it makes it possible to use more granular segmentation, possibly, all the way to the individual prospect. The Social Network, knows a lot more about people and their connections so it is not unthinkable to run campaigns targeting “prospects under the age of 30 who work at companies with less than 50 employees and are suppliers to one of our top 50 current customers and prefer Coke over Pepsi”, for example.
Broadcasting the Message
In Classical Marketing, we “broadcast our message.” In Social Marketing we “listen for signals of readiness.” But any lead generation action starts with prompting for a response.
The protocol of Social Media is one of receiver discretion (you are not expected to read everything coming through the channel), companies can communicate more often without disrupting the life of the prospects.
So the effect of Social Media is that communication is more continuous than a semi-annual business lunch and less intrusive than a monthly newsletter arriving by e-mail.
Capturing Response and Conversion
In classical marketing usually there are not many possible levels of engagement. Prospects either respond to the campaign or they don’t. With social media, there is more latitude. Customers who are interested but not yet read to initiate a sales engagement are offered options to indicate that.
In a more social environment, companies need to use technology to listen and measure the level of readiness and learn to respect the pace of customers and offer what they want when they want it.
Nurturing a prospect into a customer
While the monthly e-mail newsletter may still be applicable in some cases, Social Media create new possibilities of soft engagement that can be less intrusive and more sensitive to customer interest.
Customers can follow the company Twitter channel, or comment in the company blog or download a white paper. The nurturing process is less of a monthly pool and more of a continuous engagement.
Lead Conversion and Beyond
The conversion of a lead today tend to be a crude process of enticing customers to fill some web form. The moment you get a phone number, we assume the user is “ready”.
Social Media combined with good web analytics allow companies to “convert” a lead at the right time, so that the sales process is more natural.
After a first transaction, the work of marketing was to pursue Customer Loyalty. In the Social Business era, companies need to strive to turn happy customers in Brand Advocates and cultivate the channel to influence others.
Social Media does not invalidate all of the time-tested marketing process. But it is a profound transformation on how companies interact with customers. Because the media mix will not change overnight, marketers need to be aware of the effects of new media in their everyday actions.