As social media continues to weave its way into the business world, it’s obvious that it’s become much more than a marketing tactic. As Brandtology has noted, social media is now the No. 1 emerging channel for lead generation. The ‘social media sales funnel’ is now commonplace.

Particularly for B2B organizations and startups, social media can be a highly cost-effective lead generation tool and should be readily used to guide customers through the sales funnel.

Here’s how your organization can use social media to guide ‘fans’, ‘followers’, and ‘likes’ through your social media sales funnel:

  • Prospecting & Nurturing According to Marketo, companies that excel at nurturing tend to generate 50% more leads at 33% less cost. From a B2B perspective, the relatively low costs of using social media for sales prospecting and nurturing mean it can be a high-ROI tool that is well suited to building trust in longer buying cycles. Specifically, content creation and content curation are social media tactics that can be great for keeping a prospect in your social media sales funnel interested and engaged over a long period until they are ready to buy. These tactics can help position you as a thought leader by keeping a consistent and on-message line of communication open with prospects.
  • Qualified Leads Social media is a great source of qualified leads for two reasons: (i) those interested in what you have to say seek you out; and (ii) opportunities to listen are abundant. A form of permission-based marketing, social media tools allow you to not only quickly gauge the potential value of a new fan, follower, or like, but also allow you to seek out opportunities by listening to the business problems of prospects and those in the industry. At Venture Accelerator Partners, well defined active listening strategies have allowed us to consistently keep our customers’ social media sales funnels full. For one particular client, we have had success in finding over 200 social media leads that have resulted in over $100,000 in closed business.
  • Conversion Once you’ve engaged your leads, be sure to share relevant and high-conversion marketing content suited to the social media channel. Always be sure to engage on their terms and tailor your content to their particular business problem. As the engagement progresses, its best to move discussions offline for a face-to-face meeting to close.
  • Retention In all sales environments, account management is crucial. This is especially true from a B2B perspective and for startups. Post-sale, social media can be used to stay connected with your customers. Content that adds value to the purchase, such as tips, tricks, users guides, and the like can all be used to positively reinforce a customers buying decision and prevent post-purchase dissonance. Similarly, you can also provide additional customer value with ongoing and responsive customer support.
  • Referrals Social media is a great platform for a satisfied customer to recommend your products and services. Happy customers are the best way to keep your social media sales funnel full. To help encourage referrals, be sure to enable your website and other platforms so that all content and information can easily be shared. Additionally, take advantage of social platforms to promote your customers’ successes. Not only will this help to strengthen customer relationships, but can also help attract new prospects looking to experience similar success.

As the sales funnel continues to become less and less rigidly structured, it’s increasingly important to share content dynamic enough to be relevant to multiple stages of the buying cycle. Remember that whether you’re talking about using it for sales or marketing, social media can never exist in a silo. Integrate your social media efforts with traditional selling efforts, such as cold calling, emails, and regular follow ups in order to win new business.