socialicon2A recent survey revealed that 51% of Facebook fans and 67% of Twitter followers said they were more likely to buy the brands they like on Facebook or follow on Twitter, indicating an enormous and unique opportunity for lead generation.

Using the \”inbound\” nature of social media gives your brand a distinct advantage over traditional \”outbound\” marketing techniques that are becoming increasingly outdated.

To get started using social media for lead generation, the first thing you have to do is build a solid presence on all relevant social networking channels, including the big ones like Twitter and Facebook, but not forgetting other emerging social channels like mobile LBS providers Yelp and Foursquare.  Once your presence is established, it\’s important to consistently distribute relevant content in various forms that provide value to your potential audience, as well as build mind share around your products or services.  Your content should spark conversation around your brand, allowing you to turn those conversations into leads.

Each social avenue provides an opportunity to engage with your audience in unique ways.  For example, if you\’re an auto mechanic, you could setup a Twitter saved search for the keywords \”brake repair\” or \”transmission service\” for a 25-mile radius around your business.  You\’re then alerted any time someone in the vicinity is tweeting about the services you offer, allowing you to engage that individual in real time.  The same is true for Foursquare, where a business can offer special offers to \”Mayors\” and those with frequent check-ins to target and engage specific individuals in real time.

The first way to create leads via social media is to develop relationships with other users.  You can start this process by using social media to monitor your business and industry and the conversation occurring around your brand or service.  When you see an appropriate opportunity, initiate your own conversations or join in on the ones already being conducted.  An example of this would be to use a Twitter application like Tweetdeck to setup several saved searches that monitor the conversation around your business name, competitors\’ business names, the product or service categories you offer, and other relevant keywords.  Then, on a case-by-case basis, interact with specific users in a way that builds a relationship and allows you to market your brand in a highly targeted and relevant manner.  In this approach, you will be able to easily identify prospective customers and begin to qualify them as to how likely they are to purchase in the future.  This type of \”brand monitoring\” works on any social network.

Another lead creation strategy which can potentially achieve an even larger result is offering need-specific content to your followers and then collecting contact information from it.  An example of this would be creating content that provides value to specific readers who would be prospective customers of yours, such as a whitepaper that details how to accomplish X when X is a component of your product offering.  You can give this information to followers or friends on social networks via landing pages that require the reader to fill out a contact form before they are available for download.  This enables you to identify who is in need of your service, clarify that they are in need of it at the moment, and collect their contact information for immediate follow-up via traditional methods such as email or by phone.

Traditional marketing methods are all about speaking.  When a brand puts an ad in a newspaper, on a building, or in a subway train, they\’re broadcasting their message, but there isn\’t generally a direct method for responding.  Social media is rapidly changing this because instead of broadcasting messages, brands are initiating conversations and engaging individuals who have expressed interest on their own.  This can lead to highly effective lead generation if done correctly.