Plain and simple, the real reason to participate in any marketing activity, including Facebook and others, is to generate a customer.

That point of view gets overlooked in favor of the “see how many fans you can get” social media game. One of the things that has become painfully clear of late is that having lots of followers does not equate into having lots of business. I know plenty of well-known, heavy hitter social media types, the ones that show up on lots of tops of Twitter lists, that are broke.

I’m not suggesting that having no followers is the way to go either, but turning followers into leads and converting those leads into profitable business is the real reason to spend time and money in any tactic.

Again, I’m not suggesting that this means you find a way to buy a few fans and then spam them into submission, but you must have a workable plan in place to move people from followers to prospects.

For most businesses this means email. If you are not consistently putting out great content and offering that content for your followers to grab in exchange for their email address you are severely limiting your ability to make social media pay.

You can do this in the form of an email newsletter, downloadable free ebook or even free online seminar or other event. The point is that if you can gain trust in your social media engagement, the kind that makes people confidently give you permission to email them, you’ll make social media pay. If you don’t, you won’t, it’s that simple.

Once you’ve earned this kind of trust, you can begin to nurture this lead, educate and make offers in ways that simply don’t have impact in most social media settings.

Obviously, you can take this offline as well – drive folks to play a game of check-in, invite them to your in person event, or get them to enter to win a grand prize at your location – but the point still remains.

Look at what your doing right now with your social media efforts and ask yourself this question – What could I do that would entice some percentage of my followers to willingly and joyfully give me their email address? – answer that and you’ll turn your social media efforts into a powerful lead generation machine.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Sometimes the most obvious things are overlooked. Common sense thinking, spelt out clearly…!
    This comes back to the Marketing Hourglass every time doesn’t it John?!

    Best wishes,

    • Hey Mark – yes it does – common sense can hide when you’re looking at new things, but it’s the best guide when you employ it in all things.

  • You’re absolutely right about moving folks from fans/followers to customers. There’s a great article looking at stages in this process here:

    Social media is also a way to encourage customer loyalty, sharing, and brand evangelism.  This is the notion of social CRM (customer relationship management)  Email marketing is a great way to encourage folks to become customers, but email may not be the best way to engage customers and move them to share and support the business.  Engagement takes two way interaction.

    • Hey Angela, obviously this is a broad idea applied specifically, but sometimes we get so caught up in the need for this two way engagement, when a great deal of businesses and their customers don’t really need it or want it. Give them what they want and they will value that as well.

    • Carmen Sognonvi

      Thanks for sharing that link, Angela! I like what you say about “the enormous impact of social media on creating brand awareness.” It’s not so much that someone will follow you on Twitter and then immediately buy from you. It’s more that that’s one more channel you can use to create a favorable impression.

  • Social media is a marketing communication tool, just like print or TV ads. Many Social Media “experts” tend to forget what makes a business successful: a well-defined target market, a unique selling proposition, a product that people want to buy, proper distribution and post-sale service.These marketing principles have not changed in decades and are still very valid today.

    One of the best blog posts I have read this year. Congratulations John.

    • Thanks Michael – indeed, the fundamentals are what they are – the trick is to simply apply new ways and new behavior to the same objectives.

  • Di

    Excellent information and spot on! I would add – be real; be yourself, in any communication.

  • Pat

    You are so right.  Sometimes people are influenced by how many Twitter followers a person has when in fact, that person is broke!  I made that mistake once, aligning myself with someone who really didn’t have a “following” just a lot of names.  It didn’t take long to figure it out though. You are so right about having a strategy that moves people from leads to customers!  Thanks for this great post.

    • It’s all about building trust first though and then the moving comes easy

  •  I think business owners/entrepreneurs get caught up in the ‘social’ part of social media to the point where it is paralyzing them into being unproductive.  Being available/approachable and socializing are as different as night and day.  Once you can find balance between the two, social media can work.  (PS – kudos, great blog & great books Mr. Jantsch)

    • Thanks Joyce – great point – socializing is not the same as business networking either is it?

      •  totally not the same… so I find it interesting when people approach it all as if it was all synonymous. 

    • 100% agree. Balance is key.

  • John, as a brick and mortar I find us using
    social media to maintain our relationships with our customers that our
    product and service create. Same with email. Thanks for the thinking

  • Great concise insight.  What you’re really talking about here is building a brand, which is often the last thing that affiliate marketers think about.  Earning trust and showing brand value isn’t a quick conversion tactic, it’s an essential building block towards developing a brand that stakeholders can feel a connection to.  Fan/follower counts are false metrics towards these kinds of goals.  You can apply much of this same logic towards visual identity and other areas of brand building where affiliate marketers typically get bad advice to go to some crowdsourcing site and get low quality work for bargain basement prices.  In social media, like most areas of brand building, the harder way is usually the better way.

    • Yep – it’s all about generating trust – a whole bunch of little things at a time – rather than creating trust with a big push

  • Chris McNamara

    From a pure sales perspective, you are right on the money.

    However, your title is very general and addresses social media in one broad stroke. In that case, I must respectfully disagree. I see companies who use social media purely for relationship management rather than pure sales/lead generation. These companies are receiving a level of communication and interaction with existing customers they previously did not have. These insights and data are extremely valuable. It’s a bit unfair to dismiss it as not being a reason to be on social media. 

    Social media, by nature, is two-way communication. Getting insights from existing customers or current employees and maintaining these relationships can be just as valuable as lead generation.

    • I agree with you Chris. Social Media is a much easier way than ever before to be able to interact with you customers or potential customers on their level and manage your reputation that way. While gaining customers is definitely something social media should be used for, I don’t think it’s the only thing.

    • Hey Chris I am guilty as charged on the title, but in part it’s just a way to draw people into this broad net I’ve cast – I know there are many ways to benefit and I use them all, but my real point is that you need to focus on objectives that are different than # of followers – even in your case I would suggest that your realization that getting insights from existing customers is a valuable objective is simply a more advanced way of using social media to create more customers from happy customers.

  • Carmen Sognonvi

    Thank you for spelling this out in your trademark practical approach, John! 

    Interestingly, I can say that in our business, it’s not so much that we turn social media followers into leads, but that our social media efforts turn prospects (who found us in other ways) into leads.

    New students at our martial arts school will often tell us how much they like what we do on Facebook and Twitter, even if they initially heard about us some other way.

    Most of our students still hear of us initially through search or our offline marketing efforts, but often it’s what they see us do with social media that seems to push them over the edge and pick up the phone to call us.

    I think that more and more people are starting to look at a company’s social media accounts before they decide to do business with them. It’s kind of a check to make sure you’re up with the times, that you get how things are done these days.

    • Hey Carmen – it’s a great observation on your part I think to realize that there may be layers to why they actually but – no matter how they hear about you. It’s like having good PR supplement your advertising – you need it all to tip the scales.

  • i participate to promote my blog, that’s all…

    • Carmen Sognonvi

      LOL I appreciate your blunt honesty, Sonali.

    • And how’s that working out for you?

  • If you’re referring to only reasons for business, then I said MAYBE. But even then, I think there are some businesses that participate in social media and the discussion  just to be a part of the community. Sure, they’d take some new customers from their involvement if they got them, but if they never got one, would they stop being involved? I’m not so sure.

    • Really I made such a broad statement to cover the folks that are saying they just don’t have time – so, the opportunity cost for them is so high that they need to figure out how to make it pay using limited time resources

  • Marie Furmanski

    It’s also a good place to link up with colleagues for joint ventures and potential employees when you’re big enough to have some. 

    • Other ways to get more customers!

  • TixWoo

    that looks like its gonna make a whole lot of sense dude.

  • I feel
    that Social Media is the cheapest and the most effective option of connecting
    with potential customers. It is certainly here to stay. We have got many new
    small business clients and also professionals(doctors), who are using Social
    media to connect with their clients…and to collaborate…It is important
    that the business decides before hand what they want to acheive – Branding,
    Word Of Mouth, or Just Sales…and then take the approach that best matches
    these goals…


  • mendelj2

    John- Well said.  I couldn’t agree more when you say that building a social media following is more about quality than quantity. 
    You touch on a great point when talking about turning followers into leads, too.  We agree that it’s all about consistently publishing great content. Our experience is that businesses need to give fans and followers a reason to interact with them by asking compelling questions, empowering them with knowledge, inspiring them with a story or simply offering a special deal.  This will help you build relationships and keep you top of mind, and in the world of social media, it’s relationships that will drive your business.
    Josh Mendelsohn
    Product Marketing Manager, Social Media, Constant Contact

  • Quote: “Turning followers into leads and converting those leads into profitable business….” is an important thing that most people forget after creating a Facebook page.  Constant updating and presence in the feed and walls of your followers matters a lot. I agree that an effective email campaign, will help you pick the right fans and hopefully engage some of their friends also who are in Facebook.

    • Agree with you but i dont think that email marketing is enough to convert your users into customers. There are lots of things you need to do like join groups under your niche, keep engaging with your users and have fun, sharing the material regarding your products should be interesting, put latest updates etc.

      • Of course email isn’t enough, but without it you don’t get the chance to share the other things you’ve mentioned

  • Krishna Laxmi

    Yes,now a days,social networking website is major business tool which attracts people more.But every one is not successful in it.It depends how they understood people’s need,expectations and more.But anyway thanks to these kind of website which helps both customers and entrepreneur.