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How IBM Turned B2B Social into a Lead Gen Machine & How You Can Too

Posted on Nov 7th, 2013
  • Blog
  • B2B Marketing
  • How IBM Turned B2B Social into a Lead Gen Machine & How You Can Too
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    B2B Lead Generation

    IBM is famous—there’s no doubt about that. They’ve been known for everything from innovative products to impressive profits. But at SES Chicago, they’re known for their ability to generate leads from social—something B2B companies don’t necessarily always do well.

    90% of brands say they measure social engagement, but only 15% of CMOs say they can quantify social ROI. Clearly, there’s some sort of disconnect that needs to be addressed. Michelle Killebrew and John Lee bridged the gap in their presentation with an IBM case study on how B2B companies can leverage social media for lead gen.

    What IBM Did

    Killebrew shared a case study that serves as a powerful example of how IBM used social to take their website and social to the next level:


    The corporate giant was facing several challenges when it came to their digital marketing:
    • what to do first
    • how to scale
    • how to leverage technology to get the lowest CPL
    • how to educate extended teams/analysts about acquisitions and vision
    • a polarized spectrum of audience needs


    The company had several objectives for their digital marketing efforts:

    • create a digital experience that’s optimized for engagement
    • personalization of the user experience, sharing and conversion
    • drive huge lead volume through paid, owned and earned media
    • integrate the latest trends in digital marketing (like more video-content, message amplification through social-media, retargeted based on visitor behavior)

    Questions They Asked

    Those are quite the challenges, and some ambitious objectives to achieve on top of them. In order to do so, IBM asked themselves three questions:

    1. Is This What My Audience Craves? The new age of marketing means that you have to target what searchers and your prospective customers care about most.
    2. How can we Contextually Craft Content to the Lighter Audience? It’s all about helping identify personas, and looking at human identification for resonance
    3. What is going to keep my audience engaged? Focus on key concepts your audience cares about, it’s not a library of everything. Help them find what they need as quickly as possible.

    What They Found & What They Did:

    • People Crave Relevance: IBM linked social to their site so relevant hashtags show up that the user will actually care about
    • People Resonate with Visuals: IBM created unique personas on their website based on the needs and characteristics of their audiences. They then gave the personas a human face because, after all, people resonate with human photos. They also included videos on their site that were tailored to the different audiences, making content relevant and visual.
    • People Like Quick & Easy: IBM made ‘factoids’ of interesting statistics that web visitors can scroll through. They designed them to be easily shareable with ready-to-go tweets, and built-in images for Facebook and LinkedIn shares. They took it a step further and put social sharing widgets in email so readers can click to share even from emails. When it comes to mobile, easy clicks are extremely important to users. So IBM made it easy for mobile users to click with big, huge buttons.
    • People Like Themes: IBM created ‘rethink’ messaging customized to each of the personas they created that represented audience roles and their interests.

    How You Can Be Successful At Using B2B Social

    Lee was up next to teach the audience how they could leverage social media like IBM to increase their lead gen and successfully attract new customers. His advice came in two unique packages: DJs and Twitter Lead Gen Cards.

    Be Successful by Being like a DJ 
    A DJ is trying to take a group of people in one place that don’t know each other, a little uptight and a little shy from one place and move them to a place where they’re dancing and having fun. As a marketer that’s what we have to do. We have to move our customers and our searchers from a place of inactivity to one of activity that they enjoy. There are 3 lessons marketers can learn from DJs to help us do just that:

    1. Think ahead. DJs always plan their playlist—what they hear isn’t what you hear. Always plan out your content and your messages, be thinking of the offer after the offer after the offer.
    2. Don’t think of yourself. DJs play what their audience likes not what they like. Publish what you’re your audience craves, not what you want. They’re the ones who have to act on it, engage with it, and share it so cater it to their preferences.
    3. Watch your audience. If no one’s dancing, the DJ is probably doing something wrong. Marketers also need to watch their audiences to know what’s resonating and what isn’t and respond accordingly.

    Twitter Lead Gen Cards:
    Twitter saw an opportunity to help B2B marketers bring in more leads without spending more, and turn those leads into meaningful engagement in a shorter amount of time despite the challenges of distracted users that take multitasking to the extreme.

    So they introduced lead gen cards that show up in Twitter feeds making them clear and convenient. Users no longer have to click away from Twitter and be taken to your site to fulfill an action, it can all be done in the Twitter Lead Gen Card. These cards have several important elements:
    • Content Hook: 140 characters like any other tweet that appears at the top of the card. This has to be interesting and valuable. Don’t use just a blog title. Take your best tip, your best fact and put that here—make people want to read and look at the rest.
    • Supporting Copy: 50 characters to brand yourself and communicate the experience. If you have to email them something tell them that here so they know how they’ll get what they want–tell them what’s going to happen.
    Social Visual Impact: 150 pixels by 600 pixels for banner ads. This picture can be text, but be sure to keep it clean. This is a good place for the name of your blog post or whitepaper. Create multiple images for each image you promote so you can see which one works and which doesn’t.
    Integrated CTA Button: users click this button and you automatically get the conversion. Best practices from web and landing pages apply to this button as well. Encourage immediacy with things like “download now”, “sign up now”…emphasize the now. The trick with these is they don’t actually get the download. A box will pop up and say the company will contact you shortly. So how do you work around? Integrate with marketing automation so they get the asset automatically emailed to them with no lag.
    Auto Lead Capture: when someone clicks that button you get the name, handle, and email associated with that Twitter account. Most people don’t use corporate email addresses for that, however there’s still opportunities for nurture there and people still respond to follow-up emails.
    Engagement: the number of retweets & favorites still show at the bottom of the card.

    How to Set-up a Twitter Lead Gen Card

    Twitter knows marketers like easy, so they made it super simple to create a lead gen card. Log in to the Twitter advertisement interface, and from the drop down choose the option that says create new lead gen card, and you’re good to go.

    How to Nurture

    Now that you have all the data, you’ve connected with this person on social, how do you nurture? Set up a program. Consider emailing 24 hours later with relevant information or other things they may find useful. These tend to be opened more often and have higher click-through rates than traditional emails.

    Then start all over, seriously. Continue to improve, redesign, and personalize your marketing efforts so it’s not just a one-and-done initiative. Like Lee said, always be thinking of the offer after the offer.

    Stay tuned for our live blog coverage of the last day of SES Chicago.