One of the areas we  do a lot of consulting in is B2B lead generation. Over the last month, I have spoken to a number of business leaders on this very topic. Inevitably we get to the topic of social media and how it can be used for their company to generate leads – my answer usually is something specific to their company but implies it is difficult or time consuming. I want to be clear in today’s post – trying to generate leads for your small to medium-sized B2B likely isn’t worth the time and you will be unhappy with the result.

Now, I’m not saying there is no value to social media and I’m not saying that you can’t generate any leads using a company page/profile. However, in the amount of time it takes to cultivate relationships on Twitter (for example) that will lead to leads, you could have been using your resources to do email campaigns, create whitepapers, perform webinars and seminars that would have provided infinitely more leads and ultimately a MUCH higher ROI.

Why? Ultimately this is due to the way that social media works. B2C’s utilize the power of word-of-mouth to get many people speaking about their products. B2B’s typically don’t have nearly as many clients. A B2B with 100 clients could bring in 50 million in revenue (if the clients were large). The same 50 million in revenue could require a million consumers for a B2C to generate. Social media is all about scale and B2B’s usually can’t scale like a B2C can.

Social media does have practical applications for a large B2B. Using Twitter to provide support for clients can be incredibly valuable (and entirely necessary). In fact, providing support may even lead to social media based recommendations (leads) but again, this isn’t something you should count on.  If you are a small to mid-size B2B and you are looking at your budget for this coming year, make sure to weigh the high cost per lead and more importantly the enormous opportunity cost of not putting your resources into marketing campaigns that convert your time into leads at a much higher rate.

Note:  The one social media outlet you should look at utilizing is LinkedIn.  However, LinkedIn is more of a personal brand-builder than a company brand builder (which is what this blog was about).  It is incredibly useful for personal networking and can even be very good for lead generation.  However, it is still not incredibly useful for a company to simply create a LinkedIn company page; make updates and posts and see any type of return.  In a future blog I will write about some ways that an individual can utilize their personal LinkedIn account to get a good return on their time investment.

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