August 29

B2B Marketing and lead generation via Social networking

Social Media

6  comments

Have you dipped your toe in the water of social networking yet? And if not, should you start? That’s a question I know a lot of very busy B2B marketers ask themselves which is why I found Tessa Wegert’s ClickZ article on "Facebook as a B2B Marketing Tool" interesting.

In the article, Wegert highlights how some marketers are experimenting with using the Facebook site for proactive marketing and build targeted niche networks and B2B communities.

I’ve been using LinkedIn for several years because it’s geared more for business people. But I’ve heard the audience demographic of the Facebook is now moving from being focused on college kids to becoming a place for adults.

Overall, social networking sites are proving to be great tools for job seekers and recruiting. But I still wonder about the value of social networking tools for lead generation and business development that Wegert’s article brings up.

In B2B, I think our reputation matters as much as our brand. Like traditional networks, online social networks must be built on trust and value to be effective. In either case, you can’t replace credibility lost, if you fail to use them correctly.

I have a few hundred people in my online social network and more in my off line network. But I’ve found it takes just as much effort to use social networking tools to nurture relationships online as it does to nurture relationships off line. So in the end, I end up connecting more with my network offline or using old standbys like the phone or email.

Here’s my question…

If you use social networking tools, I’d love to get your input. Do you think a typical marketer or sales person (who isn’t a good “networker” already) can build relationships and generate sales leads for their company from a social networking tool? Why or why not?

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing. He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. Dear Brian:

    For leading (b2b) marketeers, the time is right to look into social networking. I’ve just done a tour of these media for my sector (energy) and was amazed what’s already out there.

    LinkedIn works well, but I’m biassed since many people in my country, alumni association as well as professional association are using it. Still, it’s a great way to reconnect / keep casually in touch with a broader network of people at arm’s length. It does not replace face-to-face contact, but does wonders for those people you do not have time to meet.

    Whether LinkedIn works for lead generation is unsure. I would doubt it. Where it does work well is for intelligence gathering and knowledge management, which probably explains why so many consultant organisations are on LI.

    A valid alternative or complement to LI is Xing, which offers discussion groups. LI on the other hand has LinkedIn Answers.

    I would agree with your statement that Facebook is evolving. Let’s wait and see, but it’s certainly promising.

    Thanks for keeping us posted on your thinking about this subject.

    Regards,
    Hans

  2. I think Facebook and other social networking tools are useful for maintaining and building on relationships started in meat space. You meet somebody at a conference and add them as a contact in LinkedIn, that is about the end of it. You add them as a friend in Facebook and now you see what they are up to in your news feed, maybe discover common interests or otherwise find some basis to stay in contact with them.

    What I’d like to see is a way to segregate friends from business contacts in Facebook. I don’t necessarily want to grant access to the same content of my life to all people.

    I think Plaxo is doing this now as I’ve received several notification emails that people have added me as a business contact in some new Plaxo service. I have not confirmed them because the last thing I need is another social network to manage.

  3. I am skeptical that online social media is a strong lead generation tool and environment for my organization. After six months of actively using LinkedIn, blogging, and integration with offline networking activities), we are learning that this is not a profitable way to find leads among the senior managers that we are seeking.

    We have, however, benefited from the research and informal surveying that we’ve been able to conduct via LinkedIn.

    Finally, as COD states in his/her comment, I really do not have time to manage another social network.

    My take-away: online social media might work well as a lead gen tool for some folks but right now it is less valuable and productive for our business.

  4. Whether or not Facebook (to give an example) is a good tool for lead generation is hard to answer right now. But as mentioned, Facebook is evolving. The students who started using Facebook 4 years ago have graduated and will most likely keep using Facebook to stay in touch. This means that there will be thousands of young professionals who consider Facebook to be an extension of their social life. In this context, Facebook and other major social networks could become necessary tools to reach out to potential customers and managers.

  5. I have a suggestion of a social media tool that is very targeted, down to business: “My Connections”, one of the features available in the business intelligence online software InsideView. As an user, you fill up all your previous workplaces and any other companies you might have some good leverage; the software uses this information to match you with a database of decision makers in more than 10 thousand public companies and 30 thousand private companies. It will find anyone who is connected to you and all the potential connections (people that work or used to work together, etc.), essentially professionals that are just a friendly introduction away. InsideView is a LinkedIn partner as well.

  6. I have also found it difficult to use a social network as a tool for generating leads and driving business.

    Reason being: “Social Networks” are defined by their name or their classification.

    I represent http://www.salespider.com, and the focus of our users is to Network and Generate Sales/Sales Leads.

    Sales Spider defines itself as a business social network, and that’s exactly what http://www.salespider.com is.

    Being in a business mindset while being approached within a social networking site will help users connect, drive sales and develop a business relationships much faster and with more ease.

    On Facebook I want to see pictures from last weekends festivities, at Sales Spider I want to find Sales Leads and Promote my Business.

    I don’t see how Facebook can really be used to drive sales and build contacts, however at Sales Spider it is done with ease.

    If you happen to check out the site I would like to hear your thoughts.

    Ryan Dockman

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