The journey from a "like–based" social strategy (a la 2010) to a "lead-based' social ROI strategy (today) is a circuitous path of discovery for many businesses versus a straight line. At Salesforce.com, we began to make a shift about a year ago as our goals related to social strategy matured. We needed to go well beyond vanity metrics (likes and shares) to metrics that mattered to the bottom line of our business: quality leads.
We did not have a compass or blueprint to guide us at the time, but looking back, we can map 10 steps in the path to developing an inbound content engine that helped us prove the value of social media.
Here are 10 proven steps to build a content marketing strategy that can be a new source of leads to grow your business:
1. Align your social channels
Map your social channels to your business goals, ensuring consistent branding and fixing any "broken windows" such as rogue channels and errant branding. For us, this included rolling all of our social channels onto the Salesforce.com Marketing Cloud for a single social publishing and measurement platform. While this step seems simple and doesn't take long, doing so helps create your social channel architecture and readies your social channels for increased investment and traffic.
2. Grow your subscribers
As a second step, we put all our energies into growing our fan community across our key social channels. This meant learning best practices for social posts, creating a robust publishing calendar, experimenting with like gates, and testing social advertising. The key to success was to make each branded channel owner accountable for month over month growth (say 6% growth a month) and using leader boards to keep everyone accountable.
3. Create content that delights
As our social audience grew, we needed to keep them engaged and coming back with great content. We asked ourselves, "is each post getting likes, shares and re-tweets?" The act of delighting fans includes participating in the social conversation with daily engagement. We created this blueprint for the Perfect Facebook Post to help guide our teams to success.
4. Start blogging
We began investing in our Salesforce.com blog as our "home base" for social conversations and to build up our industry thought leadership. After a few months of increased quality and quantity of blogging, this channel proved to be a top driver of inbound prospect traffic -- new eyes -- to our website. That statistic started to prove real value to executives of inbound marketing-- meaning, the blog was becoming a magnet to attract new eyes to our brand. At this stage, we shifted to using our social channels to drive inbound to our blog for the majority of our posts.
5. Create offers at every stage
The next step was getting our marketing teams to think about one big offer that would be placed behind a lead gate. What was that burning question that their prospects and customers were asking? This offer itself might be a webinar, eBook, a gated video, or some combination of the three. We tested offers at every buy stage—demos, trials as well as top-of-funnel webinars. We learned some surprising things about how "hard offers" -- trials and demos -- can work on social channels to drive revenue in combination with social advertising. By investing in each type of content deliberately, we learned what works.
6. Promote your offers
Once you have an active content engine developing content offers, you can create a cadence of promotions for each offer on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and internally. We recommended a cadence of four blog posts, four Facebook posts, 16 tweets and two LinkedIn updates for each gated offer as a starting point. Experimenting with sponsored (paid) posts on social channels is key to learn how you can extend the reach of your content and drive more leads.
7. Track your campaigns
One of the biggest breakthroughs for us was tagging URLs with campaign IDs (using Sales Cloud). Sometimes this is referred to as a campaign ID or a driver ID. When people click from Facebook to your website, that hidden parameter is passed behind the scenes. When the order form or web-to-lead form is submitted you can track the source of the lead back to that Facebook campaign. From there you can build a dashboard that measures lead quality, pipeline, and closed business.
8. Nurture your leads
Leads collected from your social channels and blog differ from those collected from your website because they are "top of funnel" and know less about your solutions. It is critical that you have an email journey designed for inbound leads so you can learn more about their interests and qualify them before they are handed off to the sales team. And, brief your sales teams on major content campaigns so that they know where these leads are first touched. In this way, you can optimize the funnel by feeding the data into marketing automation platforms. That lets us score the lead quality, put them on a personalized email journey, and give the lead proper attribution in the sales cycle.
9. Track and report content marketing ROI
If you've taken the steps above, you will now see leads flowing into your CRM that are attributed to your blog and social posts, both organic and paid. Track these leads closely on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis so that you can argue for greater investment. With the right tagging, you will be able to see what content offers are performing best on each social channel. Create a Content = ROI dashboard, sign up for monthly goals and take a seat at the table in driving leads. The critical piece is having great content, and tracking your leads all the way into your CRM.
10. Activate your networks
Finally, once you have your content engine humming, you need to ensure that you supercharge your reach. Get your employees, partners, and influencers sharing your content. Make it easy by involving them in the launch of each piece of content. By making a greater investment in your influencer outreach, you will increase the relevancy of content and expand reach. It's one of those areas that is not directly measurable today, but it may be so in the future.
These 10 steps demonstrate how we’ve better connected social activity to our CRM by using content marketing. Activity on social that was once disconnected is able to generate leads that can enter our pipeline. By putting these steps in place, you will evolve from having a healthy social engagement strategy to having what all executives are looking for—a repeatable lead-generation engine from content marketing, similar to SEO and SEM.
Do you see a step that’s missing in this path to content marketing? What stage are you at with your journey? Tell us about it below.