By Inka Wibowo
Twitter-LogoAs B2B marketers, everything we do comes down to one goal: creating buyers. To do this, we often need to start at the very beginning – even before buyers know who we are, what we do, and that they have a problem we can solve. We get buyers started on this journey by reaching out to them, and initiating a conversation – a conversation that we hope will one day create a troubled and qualified buyer.
Social media is one way to start this conversation, but with so many different networks at our disposal, the question is often: which one should I use? Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ all have their perks, but if the be-all-and-end-all of social media is to create buyers, there is one that is a cut above the rest.
Optify’s recent survey on B2B social media use found that Twitter was the most successful network for lead generation, producing 82% of all social-generated leads. By comparison, LinkedIn and Facebook generated only 9% each. Given that Facebook generally drives a much higher volume of B2B website traffic than Twitter does (54% vs 32% of all social-generated traffic), this finding may be contrary to what a lot of marketers expect.
Although it might not look like much at first glance, traffic from Twitter is worth its weight in gold. Website visitors coming from Twitter are more relevant, more qualified, and more progressed in their buying journey than any other social media visitor, and B2B marketers who are interested in using social media for lead gen can’t afford to ignore this.
Twitter is one of B2B’s least-used social networks, but perhaps that’s what makes it so effective. With less noise to compete with, B2B organisations can get some real cut-through with their tweets, and better connect with their target audience.
However, before marketers scramble to start tweeting, it pays to keep things in perspective. While the initial lure of a social media channel like Twitter may be its lack of subscription fee, there’s no point in pursuing it as a tactic unless you’re willing to devote some serious effort to it. A successful Twitter strategy requires five key ingredients, and if any one of these is missing, Twitter as a lead gen tactic might not make sense for your business.

The five key ingredients are:

1. Followers

If you’re looking to use Twitter as a lead generation tool, the first question to ask yourself is: have you got the right following? And by ‘right’, we mean both right quality (is your target market on Twitter?) and right quantity (are there enough of them out there?). Some audiences and industries are more likely to be using Twitter than others, and if only a handful of your target market are active on Twitter, you have to wonder whether spending too much time on it is really justified.
If your target market is there but they’re not following you, make yourself known to them. Get in front of them, and be someone they would want to follow.
How do you do that? With the next key ingredient.

2. Great content

This is table stakes, really, and B2B marketers don’t need to be told this (in fact, we’re usually the ones telling everyone else!). Great content is the foundation of any online lead generation tactic, and Twitter is no exception. Your most compelling blogs, whitepapers and videos give you something relevant, useful and insightful to tweet to your following, and represent a fantastic way to drive interested followers to your site. They also serve as great on-Twitter conversation-starters with potential buyers.
On the other hand, if your content is anything less than spectacular, any number of things can happen. Best case scenario: people will get bored, and be wary of reading your content in the future. Worst case? People will seriously question your credibility, and make a mental note to never trust anything you say again.

3. Time

Of course, to build a loyal following and generate fantastic content, you’ll need the one thing those of us in B2B are often short of: time. Unfortunately, it’s essential. If you don’t have the time to be checking and engaging on Twitter daily, and to be creating content on a regular basis (at least once a week), then Twitter as a lead gen channel probably isn’t for you.
You’ll also need to spend time monitoring what prospects, clients, competitors and others in the industry are saying. That will help to make sure that you’re up to speed with what’s happening, and give you plenty to tweet about.

4. Lead capture processes

There’s no point in tweeting out great content and directing your followers to your website, if you have no way of capturing their details when they get there! If you’re serious about using Twitter as a lead generation tool, you’ll need to have mechanisms in place to identify who they are, and understand how to progress them along the rest of their buying journey.
Offer downloadable assets, email subscriptions and other thought leadership in exchange for your followers’ contact details. Optimise and test your landing pages and registration forms. Building and embedding forms isn’t as convoluted an exercise as it once was – tools like Formstack and Wufoo make sure of that – so there’s no excuse for not having even a basic lead capture process in place.
Twitter have also been testing a new ad feature allowing account owners to embed call-to-action buttons within tweets. When someone clicks on the embedded button, Twitter registers the click, notifies the advertiser, and provides them with the user’s contact information.
There’s little information about when this feature will actually be rolled out to advertisers, but something like this could spell big things for B2B marketers. Imagine being able to generate leads directly from Twitter, and asking for only a single click in return!
If you have a marketing automation system in place and want to go one further in your lead capture processes, integrate a survey alongside your assets to get a clearer sense of who your followers are, and where they are in their journey. Use scoring mechanisms to qualify them, and have efficient follow-up processes in place to contact them when they do become a qualified lead.

5. Nurturing campaigns

What will you do with your Twitter-generated leads once you have them? Get on the phone and jump straight into a sales conversation? Not so fast. Not everyone who registers for a whitepaper or report is ready to become a buyer, and truth be told, the vast majority probably aren’t. However, that’s not to say that they won’t be one day.
Untroubled leads won’t be untroubled forever. There will come a point when they realise that they have a problem worth solving, and you want to be the first person they have in mind when they do come to that realisation. That’s why nurturing is such a crucial component of any inbound lead generation campaign. If you’re planning to use Twitter as a lead generation channel, you cannot go without a nurturing process.
By rhythmically nurturing leads with content that’s relevant to their challenges – challenges which you can help solve – you’ll be able to educate, position with and ultimately trouble leads into seeking a sales conversation with you. Tailor content based on what they’ve shown interest in before (most marketing automation platforms and web analytics tools can help you do this), and let them come to you when they’re ready.
Don’t have a nurturing process in place? If you don’t, devoting energy to a Twitter lead gen campaign – no matter how prolific or popular a tweeter you are – will be a serious waste of time.
One the other hand, if you do have a nurturing campaign – as well as the other four key ingredients – you’ll be well on your way to leveraging Twitter as a low-investment, high-return lead generation tactic. For more tips on how to use Twitter in your B2B marketing, read our Twitter wiki.
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