eMarketer posted an article today with the title  Social Media No. 1 Emerging Channel for Lead Gen. It is a common practice among business-to-business salespeople to use  LinkedIn (and more recently, Twitter) for prospecting. No doubt that social media presents huge potential for lead generation. However the rate of success and the value derived from social media for lead generation is not yet clear enough for most people. I believe that the success of using social media for lead generation clearly depends on the process, discipline and quality of tools that you use for managing and organizing social media information.

Let’s look at the market and trends. Forrester reports that B2B interactive marketing spending to hit $4.8 billion in 2014, over double an estimated $2.3 billion in 2009. Forrester analyst Michael Greene mentions that:

B2B marketers can’t ignore social media. Consumer-focused marketers have been relatively fast out of the gate in adopting social marketing, but I believe that it’s B2B marketers who will ultimately gain the most from social technologies. B2B marketers have always understood the need to develop deeper relationships with customers, and while traditional sales and client service operations aren’t going to disappear, social media has emerged as key platform for informing decision makers during the sales process and engaging and supporting existing clients.

Lead generation vendor landscape is fragmented with social media as one part of the bigger picture. The diagram from Forrester Research aptly describes the situation.

Here is more from the e-Marketer post:

According to virtual events provider Unisfair, social media is the top emerging channel for lead gen among technology marketers surveyed in May 2010.

Lead generation was marketers’ first priority, with 66% saying it was their greatest concern for 2010, compared with just 17% who chose brand awareness.

When online marketing firm R2integrated surveyed US marketing professionals in April 2010 about why they had a social media strategy, the No.1 response was to increase lead generation.

Unqualified leads are a major problem, with one-third of Unisfair respondents saying they normally rejected 16% to 30% of their leads as unqualified.

The most important types of information for determining whether a lead is valuable include interest and demographic information—which might make social media an even more useful prospecting channel, since profiles can include exactly the type of data salespeople are looking for. In addition, social media can provide a venue for nurturing leads that are not yet ready to buy.

What about you: do you use social media for lead generation? What are some of the lessons that you have learned from your efforts to generate leads from social media?

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