Former President of CBS News Andrew Heyward wrote in the Harvard Business Review last year that “every company is a media company,” summarizing the idea that marketing is shifting to an environment where advertisers need to produce compelling content in order to succeed.
Recent data suggests that this is indeed the case, and that looking at social media services like Twitter and Facebook strictly as lead generation tools might be counter-productive, especially for companies that focus on business-to-business sales.
LeadForce1, an online marketing automation service provider, studied website visitor data for 218 companies with a social media presence from February through April of this year. The results overwhelmingly showed that visitors who arrived at corporate websites via Twitter and Facebook engaged mostly with content – specifically a company’s blog – as opposed to exploring products or submitting a contact us form.
Diving into the numbers, when users arrive from Twitter, they are more than six times more likely to view a blog post than a Contact Us form. When they arrive via Facebook, the ratio isn’t quite as high, but nonetheless, blog posts and a company’s About page make up the bulk of user visits. About 63 percent of all of the visitors from both Twitter and Facebook look at only a single page.
The conclusion, then, from LeadForce1 is that “Facebook and Twitter do not bring in Leads – these can be used as channels to engage with your existing customers, media, other stakeholders, or for nurturing existing prospects, but not as a medium for generating leads.” With the vast majority of businesses still not measuring the ROI of their social media efforts, that might be seen as a discouraging data point.
However, I would argue that such a conclusion is short sighted, since it doesn’t measure the ongoing impact that engaging with customers and producing quality content can have on the long-term growth of your company. It doesn’t take into account a fundamental principle of social media marketing – the one that Heyward summarized so well in his statement about the evolution of advertising.
The stats are also a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy – as marketers become more savvy and use social media for conversation and content as opposed to solely direct sales and lead generation, it would make sense that the majority of referral traffic from social media sites is going to content as opposed to product pages and submission forms.
Thus, the thing to keep in mind is that while linking your audience to a blog post might not translate directly to a sale, it might translate to a blog subscription, a retweet, or a share on Facebook. And that audience – which will grow with every quality piece of content you produce – can be re-engaged down the line with news about your products or special offers that directly drive sales.
While social media shouldn’t be thought of in the same fashion as more traditional forms of marketing where lead generation happens at the point of arrival, it would be a mistake to write it off as simply a communications tool with no direct correlation to new customer opportunities.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, temniy