Monthly Archives: August 2007

Generating Leads With Social Media

Note: I originally posted this on I’m reposting here because I can better control the flow of data into my Facebook group for MotiveLab. This is an emerging and controversial discussion about the reshaping of traditional marketing that I’ll be discussing on Facebook. My first volley, below, has been followed with a very different view which will be posting on SmartMarketers shortly.

Generating Leads With Social Media

For all the talk about social media—blogs, podcasts, wikis, forums—the majority of marketers I talk with are still uncertain about how to apply social media to their lead generation efforts.

In too many cases, social media initiatives are funded as pet projects—a sudden itch from on high that needs to be scratched.

These are real quotes:

“We have to have a viral video piece on YouTube ready for our customer conference.”

“Our competitor has a new blog, and we can do a hell of a lot better.”

“Our CEO wants us to start podcasting.”

Now, I’m all for innovation. Whatever it takes to get the ball rolling. But I can count on the fingers of one hand the marketers I’ve spoken with recently who are aggressively and systematically applying their knowledge of lead generation fundamentals to social media. That number needs to grow. So let’s dig in a little and talk about social media in the context of applied marketing and lead gen.

If you’re new to the social media discussion, the first thing to understand is that social media signifies a big shift in marketing. What you used to call a market, or a market segment, is now a networked customer community. Attitudes are no longer driven by your carefully crafted message, blasted relentlessly through a series of channels to gather 1.5% response. The internet makes it easy for people to connect and share information, and they know there’s a lot more value in learning about products from others like themselves than from marketing campaigns.

What this means is that markets are increasingly driven by content, conversation and community. Instead of flooding the market with pick-up lines, you need to listen, engage and catalyze your customer community. If you do it well, if you have something of real value and interest for your market community, they’ll spread your message for you.

The best place to start is by finding out where your customer community is already connecting to talk about your market, and who is influencing the conversation. You can begin by using some of the many new tools focused on searching through social content. You can search social bookmarks for keyword concepts related to your market on or Ma.gnolia. You can search for recent blog postings on Technorati. You can search for news items related to your market that were highly rated by web users at Reddit, Digg or Sphere. And when you’re ready to start seriously tracking the flow of conversation and the impact of key influencers, you can check out tools like Buzzlogic and Factiva’s Reputation Intelligence.

Once you know where the conversation is happening, the best thing you can do is to spend some time just listening. What are people talking about? What issues are driving the discussion? If you have something meaningful to say, then jump in. But get engaged as an interested participant, not as a product shill. As a useful analogy, think of your market as a dinner party. Imagine your attitude toward someone who butted into a conversation, talked about how great he was for a few minutes, and then walked away to barge into the next conversation. Unfortunately, that’s the impression many marketers are making today as they trawl blogs, dropping self-serving comments and then disappearing. Communities are much more welcoming to people who have something interesting to say, are authentic, and take a genuine interest in the people around them.

When you’re engaged with one or more of market communities, lead generation programs start to define themselves. You’ll know which community hotspots are attracting traffic and what content is relevant. A lead gen campaign for a bike company at MySpace, for example, might focus on leveraging a big personality like Lance Armstrong to attract friends and drive links. A campaign at Mountain Bike Review Forum, with 60,000 dedicated cyclists, would be more product focused, maybe organizing a demo ride. The program you put together should be designed to fit the community, and you’ll only know how to do that if you’re engaged.

At any existing community where you want to generate leads, it’s important to understand and respect any policies about commercial campaigns on their networks. Some communities will have opportunities for sponsorship, or co-branded content, while others may have specific prohibitions against direct response marketing. If you’re just interested in testing the waters to see how a community–particularly a large community–might perform in a broader campaign, you can often buy banner ads or adword campaigns that focus on particular sites so you can test the interest in program concepts.

When you are well oriented to your market community, campaign execution will look surprisingly familiar. It’s still important as ever to have a compelling offer, a clear message, and to test everything you can to continually improve effectiveness. The difference today is that you need to be much more transparent, honest and accountable in the ways you engage your market. Prospects aren’t just individual "targets" to pick off like sitting ducks. They’re members of a community where word travels fast.

Next time, we’ll look at some specific types of social media lead generation programs. In the meantime, I’ve written a Marketing Brief detailing 12 Essential Tips for Success in Social Media. It’s free and only requires registration. Wait a minute. Am I trying to generate leads on this social media site? You bet.

Nine Days Waking

Have you ever noticed how hard it can be to find perspective? It’s an article of faith that perspective is valuable. We treasure those transformative moments in life when we suddenly see everything in a new light–and we’ll go to enormous lengths to manufacture those moments when we need them. Exotic retreats. Guru seminars. Life-changing vacations. But sometimes going through the motions doesn’t produce the desired effect. Sometimes you heave and slog to the top of a great mountain only to find that while the view is different, the perspective hasn’t really changed. When you come back down, everything looks the same and life continues on as it was.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as if perspective is getting harder to come by. I mean, you have to step outside your own reality to get it, but it’s getting harder and harder to escape your own bounds without taking a lifeline with you. You could climb Everest and still keep up on email and your Facebook network. Mobile access gives us a virtual bubble to travel in, which is great for allowing us to get away, but terrible for allowing us to really Get Away.

I’ve been struggling with this over the past few weeks as I’m dealing with a lot of business decisions and transformations. I’ve really needed time to think and process and see things from a different vantage point. I thought a 12-day vacation with my family would be a perfect opportunity to escape, but as I’m sure every one of you knows, it isn’t that easy. In fact it can be downright comical. It’s like going through the stages of grief, you know: anger, denial, bargaining and acceptance.

In my case, our family vacation was an epic camping/road trip to dinosaur country with my 6-year old aspiring paleontologist. We started in Salt Lake City, and made a wide loop through Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. Lots of endless highways punctuated with towns clinging to populations less than 1000. At first, I relied on my Treo, plugging into Sprint’s network around larger towns and cities, which is actually pretty good. But the minute you start roaming, data services are dropped. So then I’d rely on phone calls, and I’d get all my data work done in a frantic hour parked behind some Super 8 motel in the middle of nowhere. When my highest priority rolling through a town was looking for "Free WiFi" on the marquis of motels, I knew I was a hopeless case. (Why haven’t the fast food chains figured this out yet? There’s a Burger King or McDonalds in every highway town. They could pull in a growing number of travelers by offering WiFi…)

It took me nine days to finally let go–aided and abetted by the remote wilderness of Southern Utah. We were in Escalante, lost in a thousand miles of desert, holed up in a tiny Oasis feeding into the Fremont River when I finally cut the cord. No email. No texting. No web. No phone calls. The first of what would become three days of silence.


It’s hard to summarize in a blog post my own experience of unfolding perspective. I began to see clearly how scattered my focus has been. I could see the reality of relationships that are shaping my life. I could see with sudden resolution how much I need to let go of my own ideas and expectations. But the most poignant perspective I gained was the simplest, and the most haunting, and the most stunning contrast to the wired world I live in every day.

I was at the top of a long hike in Zion. It was 106 degrees and I’d climbed 1500 feet up along a steep trail carved into the edge of a sandstone wall, where I found a slot canyon to escape the heat. Sitting in the center of a vast and abstract masterpiece of wind and water and stone, I could look out over a plunging cliff into a prehistoric valley showing 100s of millions of years of geologic theater. And it struck me. The value of nature. The importance of escaping the tethers of electronic life when we can. When you’re finally able to disconnect, to find perspective, you step outside the limitations of your own imagination. You see larger than your manufactured self. You grasp what your mind filters out in the efficient operation of daily life. It may be pixelated details, it may be breath-taking vistas. But the experience of catching the unexpected is an epiphany. For me, it wasn’t some new magical truth that replaced the bubble of my own imagination, it was simply the profound realization that there’s much more to discover beyond the illusions in which I wrap myself every day–that stripping down illusions is more important for me now than creating them.


I’m imagining this all sounds pretty trite, but the effect is quite tangible. I’ll be making an announcement in a few weeks about my business, which I’ve been keeping quiet for the past few months. I’ll be changing the tone of this blog to open up a little more freely to write about what I feel like writing. And I’ll be reaching out more to the people I really want to work with in discovering new ideas and opportunities. Life is too short to stay confined in a small bubble.