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How to generate business leads online with social media

Invest in social media that results in leads.

On this page

  • Establish yourself as an expert
  • Get the details of potential customers
  • Know your audience

Social media has been immensely useful for marketers trying to build a brand and interact with customers, but business-to-business (B2B) marketers and small businesses still struggle with it. Many don't know how to generate online leads using social media and turn them into sales.

Don't like social media B2B marketing? You're not alone. 71% of surveyed users in a 2013 Business.com survey said they used social media and content marketing, but only 22% of these businesses thought they were effective.

This being said, social media accounts are still for free for any business. There must be some way to take advantage of this to generate leads.

The first step is to get smart about how to use social media. Read on to discover a few savvy tricks that could change the way you think about social media.

Establish yourself as an expert through blogging

Having a blog does two things for you immediately:

  • it gives readers and businesses a reason to visit your website, even if your business doesn't offer something needed on daily basis (a plastering business for example)
  • it gives you the chance to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
This is why it's so important to have good content. Businesses and readers can go just about anywhere on the web to find the answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.

Your job is to make them come to you by posting articles offering to solve a problem or teach them a new skill using a how-to article. A plastering business might post 'What you should know before starting a lengthy remodel' or 'How to avoid the biggest plastering flubs.' These types of articles entice the reader with good information.

Keep your content quality high but your topics basic. It's better to discuss '101-level' content to generate conversations in the comments. People are more likely to voice their opinion or ask a question if they feel comfortable with easy material.

Consider a content marketing plan to make sure you're thinking about what content will work for your audience.

If it's good content, don't give it all away

So how does this translate to generating leads? Simple, you make your content form-gated.

When you're at an event, how do you gauge your success? Probably by the number of forms filled out by interested consumers. Your online readers will have to fill out the same types of forms if they want to get to your great content.

Tweet links to your content and post the links on Facebook. When viewers see the links, they'll be enticed to see what advice you have to offer. They'll go to your blog and be able to see the first part of the article, but in order to view the rest, they must fill out a form.

This method gives you solid leads and it helps you gauge how effective your other forms of social media are. You'll be able to see how people got to the link, either through Facebook, Twitter or a Google search.

Know your audience, know their platform

Now is the time to start researching your customers and your competition if you really want to excel in online lead generation.

Start by checking out some of the businesses or consumers that you would like to turn into customers. What do their web pages and social media pages look like? Do they have a lot of text or do they mostly post photographs? If you see how they use social media, you'll have a better understanding of how they will want to interact with you and how to grab their attention.

Let's use the plastering business as an example. Say your business wants to set up contracts with apartment complexes in the area. When a tenant moves out, you want to redo any damaged plaster.

These complexes post pictures of their properties on Instagram to attract customers. The plastering business might open an Instagram account and post pictures of work they've done, before and after. This is a great way for the plastering business to get some exposure. That way when a complex is in need of someone, they know just who to call.

So find out where your audience likes to spend its free time online. In addition, see what your competition is up to. What are they doing? How could you do it better?

Be ready to talk

Many businesses use social media as a form of customer service. While that may not seem like a good way to generate online leads, it does help make you less of a faceless business and more of a reliable friend who happens to sell goods and services.

Start by listening to your current customers and ask, 'How can I help?' So many people are tired of hearing sales pitches and they've learned to tune it out. Distance yourself from that and build trust. Answer the questions you receive and seek out forums online where people ask questions. You can establish yourself as an expert in this way.

You also want to appear available through multiple avenues. If a customer is contacting you, more than likely they've already researched you and are ready to speak with a representative. Monitor emails to your website, posts to your social media accounts and any phone numbers that are listed so a sale representative is always ready to close a deal.

Even if you don't like social media marketing, you can't deny it comes with quite a few free advantages. You gain exclusive access to your market and the ability to interact with them. You should never fully rely on social media to land sales, your sales people or processes should be able to take care of that. You want to use social media to help more businesses get to the contacting stage.

So get your name out there, show your consumers you know your stuff, reel them in and land a sale!

Case Study: Social media marketing for small business

'I see Twitter as a way of creating a personality for the business; it's about letting the customer see behind the scenes.'
Georgia Samuel, Famish'd

Read more about Social media marketing for small business

Georgia Samuel of Famishd standing in front of fresh salads an the Facebook logo
Michael Bird

About the author

Michael Bird is Co-Founder and Director of Digital Strategy at Social Garden, a Melbourne based Digital Marketing Agency specialising in social media lead generation, content marketing and SEO. You can connect with Mike on Google+ or visit his blog.