Social Media does not provide B2B Leads

Editors note:  This mini-whitepaper was written in 2009 and many things have changed since then. Nevertheless, if social media doesn't drive participants back to the web site for metrics (and to start a ales cycle) the value of social media for B2B is limited. 

Social Media does not provide B2B Leads. In fact, they don't even drive that many visits to web sites.

There, I've said it.  

Blasphemy to all those enthralled with the new, engaging social media applications. However, being an "In God we trust, all others bring data" kind of guy, I have always been concerned that there were never any precise ROI metrics or lead statistics by any of the enthusiastic, almost giddy, early adapters of the social media phenomena. 

One of the reasons for this is, (as blogged by Merlin Francis, Director of Communications at LeadForce1):

The problem with most marketers is that, the moment they find a new medium or a new channel which is popular with their target audience, they make it the epicenter of their promotional efforts.

Now there is a new quantitative study of 261 B2B companies from Leadforce ( that confirms my intuitive feelings and I believe we will see more confirming studies now that some time has elapsed in social media applications existence.

The overall finding from the study is that while there is value in social media presence, the ability to drive web site visits and, more importantly, deliver prospect leads through social media applications are minimal.

Of the overall visits to the web sites in the study and the associated 4,365,377 analyzed hits, only 14-15% of the visits came through social media and the majority of those visits were to gather information. Here are some other findings:

 -- Nearly 15 percent of Enterprise visitors to a website with active social media presence are from Social Media sites.

 -- Wikipedia is the most effective social media channel and brings in the most relevant and serious Leads.

 -- LinkedIn accounts for the maximum number of visitors from any social media site to a B2Bwebsite. However the visitors who come in from LinkedIn are more interested in finding out 'who they (company) are?' than 'what they (company) do?'

 -- Facebook and twitter do not bring in Leads - these can be used as channels to engage with your existing customers, media, or other stakeholders, or for nurturing existing prospects, but not as a medium for generating Leads.

 -- The maximum number of visitors to any site - are direct visitors, people who key in the website address - there is reason to believe this could be a result of word of mouth endorsements or brand awareness campaigns.

One Huge Caveat

In a recent exchange during a webinar with Ardath Albee, author of eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, I stated that the decision makers for our clients' products and services don't have time nor desire to participate in social media to the extent that it would deserve a significant marketing investment. I had to agree with her retort which was that, few complex sales are made by one person and that while the ultimate decision maker may not use social media, they may rely on other influencers who not only use the medium, but rely on it for their information.

Thus, if your sales process involves many influencers, user buyers or technical advisors, it may be in your best interest to investigate on how they procure their information, especially on the web sources and social media they utilize.

The Moral of the story

If you have more than enough in your marketing budgets to cover all bases, then feel free to tweet and blog to your hearts content. If, however, your marketing efforts have to produce leads and link directly to sales, then social media investments should come a little further down on the priority list.

First and foremost, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and keeping your site high on the results list for your industry and associated key words is the most important.

Secondly, investments in full cycle campaigns (especially e-blasts) are the most effective marketing vehicle in today's digital age for providing leads and/or campaign measurement ROI. With that being said, know that it is not an easy route, but necessary given today's prospects' access to information and sophistication. The message and/or e-Blast must be formatted and worded correctly, it must have a call to action, the content reward must be timely and insightful (and personalized if possible), the follow up must be immediate and the sales call quick, etc. etc.

It must be a system, not a single tactic to deliver leads and positively affect sales.

Big Picture

Big picture, it's now a more infinitely complex marketing landscape and we are seeing that clients' post card campaigns, catalog bulk mailings and other traditional marketing/lead generation methods are simply not having the same impact they once had. 

Marketing sophistication will not go backward, and there will be more thrilling applications (remember Second Life?) or techniques appearing. It is our collective challenge to separate the hype from the reality and most importantly, decide if it fits and complements our products, our services, our distribution model and our sales process.

For what it is worth...
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