Effective lead generation lives somewhere between marketing and sales. That's why sometimes your sales and social media teams don't coordinate as well as they should -- even though social media is often the front line of a business's lead-gen efforts.

The Social Media Examiner's 2018 report found that, among those marketers who have utilized social media for at least two years, more than half said that it had helped them to boost sales. Two in three said that they were actively generating leads on these platforms. So while sales professionals might feel most at home fishing for leads on LinkedIn, their efforts should span all social media channels.

How are businesses generating valuable leads on social media, and how can you do the same? Here are five essential considerations.

1. Optimize by platform.

Facebook remains the most popular platform used by marketers, but just between 2017 and 2018, Instagram leaped from fourth to second place, with 66 percent of marketers utilizing it. Twitter and LinkedIn followed close behind.

But just because you're using all these platforms doesn't mean you should be using them in the same way. Each one is optimal for targeting a different range of audiences, and each requires its own types of content.

2. Utilize visuals across the board.

Eighty percent of all marketers were using "visual images" and 63 percent were using videos on social media in 2018, making these the top two most popular types of content. What's more, 68 percent were planning to increase their use of visuals and 77 percent to increase their use of videos in the near future.

In short, visual content is effective, and marketers know it. I'm going to dive in to platform-specific strategies next, but know this: no matter where you're posting, visual content is going to perform best.

3. Embrace LinkedIn's lead generation tools.

LinkedIn is a great place to start for those businesses that aren't yet comfortable generating leads on social. It not only connects you directly to other business leaders, it's also proven to be highly effective. A survey of 5,000 small businesses conducted by HubSpot found that "LinkedIn vastly outpaced competing social networks for lead generation," Sujan Patel reports.

LinkedIn offers several great tools for businesses. LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms help prospective customers reach out to you without even having to go to your website. You can also opt to post sponsored content, or reach out directly to leads via InMail. Consider posting visually enticing ads, too -- of those marketers who use social media ads, 60 percent reported the best ROI from LinkedIn.

4. Master visual communication on Facebook and Twitter.

Video and images such as infographics and photos perform better on Facebook than text-only posts. But given this knowledge, marketers have flooded the platform with low-quality visuals, and consumers have caught on. They're no longer willing to click on just anything: they're looking for quality.

Your first step toward lead-generation success on Facebook is creating custom visuals with a focus on quality -- the kind of quality you want to deliver as a business.

Your next step is to harness the power of visuals to drive consumers toward specific actions. Can you post small data visualizations as teasers for an ebook that's available on your website? Can you produce an entertaining video that encourages people to click through to your YouTube channel or blog? Think about what specific actions you want a viewer to take every time you make a post. Then optimize your visuals to encourage that action.

5. Optimize your visual content on Instagram.

If you weren't convinced that we're living in the age of high-quality visuals, just take a moment to scroll through Instagram. The profiles with the highest number of followers all have one thing in common: they post consistently great visual content. So when it comes to your Instagram strategy, the first step has to be opting for the highest-quality visuals, every time.

Next, as Flackable founder Brian Hart suggests, focus on building authenticity. You want to show who you really are as a business, what you believe in and what you're working toward. People respond to authenticity, and are more likely to follow you -- and this is key, considering it can take between five and eight exposures before someone finally decides to make a purchase.

How do you create a sense of authenticity? Don't use stock imagery and clip art, for starters. Today's consumers can spot these from a mile away, and they project a sense of falsehood, like you just slapped something together instead of taking the time to share something deeper about your business.

Start with these key social strategies, and you'll be generating more leads in no time. Just remember: quality visuals come first.

Published on: Dec 10, 2018