Social media is a bit like Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates: You never know what you’re gonna get.
Many businesses love the idea of using social media to generate leads, but many also struggle to come up with a decent strategy to do so. Part of the problem is that it can be difficult to know whether or not someone seeing your post (if they see it) will actually become a paying customer.
So how do you use social media to turn mere followers into actual consumers? Well, it’s not an exact science, but there are a few general guidelines you want to follow when it comes to generating leads this way.
Here’s what you need to know.
This is probably the most obvious one, but you can’t generate leads with an inactive or semi-active account. According to Business Insider, there are a total of 1.3 billion accounts on Twitter alone, but only 320 million are active.
Some companies have dedicated personnel responsible for managing social media accounts, but not everyone has that luxury.
Smaller companies without the budget for a full-time marketer or entrepreneurial types who prefer to manage things themselves may find it difficult to keep up with the demands of social media.
But in order to use social media to the best advantage, you have to actually use it. This means that whoever is in charge of updating your Facebook and Twitter needs a plan.
For best results, focus on a couple platforms that you know your audience uses and use tools like Buffer to automatically schedule your posts so you don’t have to focus on it every day.
Or, if you’re really not into the nitty-gritty of managing your own accounts, hire it out.
Always Point Somewhere
There are a few reasons that people follow brands on social media, with the top ones including product research, brand awareness and discounts or other offers (if you need ideas for content, those things will generally work well).
But having social media users aware of your brand or product is only part of the equation. You need to get them from Point A: Following your social media page to Point B: Hitting “Submit” on their shopping cart order.
The best way to do this is by making sure that every social media post points customers somewhere on your site.
This means that social content links back to specific (and high converting) landing pages, or to a blog that gives them information they can use to make a purchasing decision, or to a promo or discount they can use.
Studies show that link clicks make up 92% of all user interactions on social media. Sending out a message without a link significantly reduces your chances of converting.
Time It Right
Timing also plays a role in conversion success. After all, the more people who see your posts, the higher the odds of someone clicking, and more clicks means better chances of getting them through your sales funnel.
According to Buffer, engagement rates are 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays and 32% higher in general on the weekends compared to weekdays. They also note that as a general rule, posts sent at 1:00 p.m. tend to get the most shares while those sent at 3:00 p.m. get more clicks.
Posts targeted in the early afternoon also tend to get more traffic than those posted around dinnertime or even before work.
Content type will also affect who is seeing your posts and whether or not they engage. Videos, for instance, are more effective when posted in the middle or towards the end of the day (or on the weekend), as many people won’t watch videos during work hours.
More visual content like infographics, on the other hand, work well any time, and can be an easy tool to get people to your website if you’re needing a quick boost in traffic.
Use More Than Words
You also want to mix up your post types to include more engaging and interactive content.
Quizzes, for example, not only engage audiences but also provide feedback that’s useful for your marketing strategy as a whole. It can also introduce people to your brand by addressing relevant topics that audiences may not automatically associate with your brand.
Short videos, like Instagram or Snapchat stories or even a Facebook live video, can attract more attention to your brand or to specific products or events (Crosshair Music has a great article about using Instagram videos here.)
Even something humorous like cartoons, comics or jokes can help you improve engagement and generate more leads for your brand, as long as there’s an actionable link. Creative Agency RGA has a few great examples of this in practice (listed in this article).
Moral of the story: It doesn’t have to be boring to be effective.
Use Both Paid and Organic Posts
You should be taking advantage of both organic and paid advertising opportunities as well.
Organic posts, like quizzes, article links, retweeted or reposted content from other sources, or even humorous posts can all create brand awareness and drive traffic, but their reach isn’t quite as targeted as paid advertising.
In short, the audiences you really want won’t always see them, but they may be effective in drawing in unexpected followers.
Paid advertising, on the other hand, can be narrowed to specific audiences, which increases the chances that someone who is already interested in buying from you will see your posts.
According to a survey by eMarketer, 61% of those who reported using paid posts found their posts to be more effective at lead generation, rating them either 4 or 5 on a 5-point effectiveness scale (3 being neutral).
But it’s not necessarily more effective to target one type of post over the other, and a strategic combination of both organic and paid advertising works best.
The biggest piece of advice when it comes to lead generation with social media, however, is to get creative. Social media is like a living and active organism; it’s unpredictable and even volatile at times, but there’s no end to its capabilities.
Basically, have fun with it. Play around. Generate a variety of social media and track your results to see which strategies bring customers in.
Keep in mind that if you’re generating a lot of traffic but you’re still not seeing sales, it could be a symptom of your marketing strategy as a whole. You may have a poorly optimized website or other factors that are preventing your social media from being as effective as possible.