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How to Generate Quality Sales Leads Through Social MediaMany businesses now strive to generate leads through social media. Their results have been uneven, to say the least, new research shows.

Marketers responding to a Social Media Today survey with Sharpspring were roughly evenly split between those who are somewhat dissatisfied (30%) and somewhat satisfied (38%) with social media sales lead generation as well as those extremely dissatisfied (8%) and extremely satisfied (7%). That’s an almost perfect bell-shaped curve. Marketers are also evenly split over feelings about the quality of leads generated through social media.

More than 45% said they did not think their current marketing is aligned with optimal lead generation, and 23% weren’t sure.

Some companies excel at finding customers through Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest; others struggle. Some accumulate large followings and plenty of likes and comments, but fail to win many leads.

Create Gated Content for Social Media Leads

Here’s a synopsis of the research’s key recommendations:

Have a plan and relevant offers. Create helpful content offers, such as email sign-ups, ebooks, discounts and online events.

Include relevant calls to action in social media posts. Viewers won’t act if you don’t ask. Likes and comments may boost egos but your goal is to convert.

Create a defined workflow process to follow-up on leads and engage and re-engage them. Determine when and how frequently to contact leads.

Focus on the appropriate platforms. Most marketers (80%) say Facebook is superb for lead generation, 47% named LinkedIn, and 45% mentioned Instagram. Facebook has the best ad options and tools for driving leads. LinkedIn appeals to B2B audiences. Yet research shows that Pinterest users have high purchase intent. Ultimately, the best social platform depends on the particular business.

Don’t abandon networks if they generate few leads. They may offer other benefits. Twitter can be a good network for customer service and monitoring for potential crises.

Post images and video. Still images and video generate more leads than text posts, say survey respondents. Stories, cited as a lead generation method by 11%, isn’t a leading tactic but is growing in popularity and may warrant continued attention.

Pursue automation – carefully. Almost 70% marketers indicated they would consider automating aspects of their social media marketing, such as follow-up emails. They hope automation will increase leads while reducing manual labor. The problem is that customers want human interactions, not robotic responses.

More Social Lead Generation Tactics

These are more tips for generating leads through social media.

Social media listening. A social media listening service can report when consumers mention your company, its product or the product category, the company’s sales personnel can reach out to them, describe the product, answer questions, and otherwise offer assistance. In addition, if someone complains about a competitor’s product, your company’s representatives can ask them to explain their problem, offer solutions, and tell them about your product’s advantages.

Monitor for general industry terms, product categories, and keyword phrases people use when searching for solutions to their problems. People often enter search terms that describe their problem, not names of products. Listening for those keywords can reveal potential customers that the sales force can engage.

Sweepstakes. Offer a free prize that’s valuable enough to garner interest. But the prize should be valuable mainly to people who are likely to become paying customers, not to those only interested in a freebee, recommends Christina Newberry at Hootsuite. Offer an extended trial of your product or an upgrade to a higher tier of your service. Post links on social media to a landing page to collect customers’ information.

Discount codes. Post links to flash deals and discount codes. A strong call-to-action and a time constraint create a sense of urgency, says Lisa Marcyes at Marketo. For example, Content Marketing Institute offered potential conference attendees a chance to save $100 on their conference registration by using a limited-time discount code. By assigning unique codes for each social channel, you can track which platform directed the most traffic.

Bottom Line: Many social media marketers struggle to generate leads, even if they enjoy large followings and robust engagement. While marketers typically offer valuable content in return for customers’ contact information, they can also use other methods to produce leads, such as social media listening, sweepstakes and discount codes.