At CDI, a question we get asked often these days is: What are you doing in social media? Perhaps a better question might be: What do social media have to do with demand generation?
The answer is: plenty, but perhaps not in the way you’d think.
As a most basic example, blogs can be a highly effective lead generation vehicle, though most companies don’t take full advantage of their capability in this regard. In the sidebar to the left of this post you’ll see e-mail and RSS subscription links featured prominently, plus a number of other, well: offers, precisely because in all candor we designed this blog in part as a way to generate leads (surprise, surprise.)
In contrast, however, my observation is that most corporate blogs – particularly in the high-tech B2B space in which we operate – will rarely contribute much to the lead funnel, except by accident, because they tend to come into being minus any particular mission, other than perhaps some vague notion of promulgating thought leadership. More’s the pity. Personally, I don’t see any issue with having “lead generation” be part of your blog’s explicit purpose, and then designing the blog accordingly.
So yes, you can generate leads through social media. However, I will venture the opinion that where blogs and other vehicles have the most potential in the context of B2B demand generation is not in lead acquisition, but rather in lead nurturing.
When we design lead nurturing strategies for clients, the most common objective is some variation on: “keeping in front of prospects so that they think of us when they’re ready to buy.” Even the most relevant, personalized e-mail content has the potential to wear out its welcome, but blogs (via e-mail and RSS subscriptions), Twitter feeds, Myspace and Facebook pages are an ideal complement to e-mail communication, perfect vehicles for maintaining your brand as “top of mind” with your chosen audience.
This was reinforced for me recently when I read a fascinating post at ReadWriteWeb (thanks for the tip, Mat) about “brandstreaming,” a new concept in social media defined as “a consistent flow of content created by a brand.” And what is a “consistent flow of content” but merely another way of nurturing a business relationship?
What is your company doing to leverage social media and keep your brand top of mind? Not as much as some, I’ll wager. Take the example of Pandora, the online music service. Pandora’s social media initiatives include: Friendfeed, Twitter, Facebook, Get Satisfaction, Flickr, and MySpace.
That’s quite the checklist. To be fair, Pandora is a consumer brand, and on the social media bandwagon, B2C companies are miles in front of their B2B counterparts. Still it shows the potential.
Consider this. According to ReadWriteWeb:
“… content consumption outside of websites has increased 153% in the last 9 months, and 53% of online users are consuming content outside of a publisher’s site – through the use of widgets, RSS readers, social networks and mobile devices.”
Those are eye-opening statistics, and B2B companies aren’t immune from such trends. All this means that when you plan a lead nurturing strategy, e-mail may no longer be enough. Put another way: time to think outside the inbox.
Here at Zynchros we are starting a social media experiment using ning.com. We have created “Zynchros Special Interest Groups” focused on specific topics of interest within the healthcare industry and invited customers and partners to meet digitally once a quarter & use our ZSIG forums on ning.com to ask questions/share info & experiences among the members of the groups and selected individuals within our product marketing, quality, development and service organizations. It is not designed as a lead gen exercise but rather our way of doing product research and growing the core of an engaged user community.
As the experiment matures we will encourage the emergence of “super users” who will create new, relevant groups and invite others who are colleagues but not necessarily Zynchros customers to join. We have a 3 year plan for the evolution of this space that will end up in public forums that will indeed be a boost to both lead gen and nurturing. We are very excited with the potential. Now we just have to execute!
Very interesting Terry – thanks for sharing. I confess I’m not familar with nng.com, but at first glance it appears to me this could easily have demand generation potential well beyond cultivating existing users of your product. Great stuff.