In a Cloudforce New York session last week, Jeffrey Cohen and Kipp Bodnar, authors of The B2B Social Media Book, delivered a remarkable statistic: 73% of CEOs don’t believe marketers drive revenue.

Leads fix this problem and can help prove the worth of social media endeavors. That’s because leads are a proxy for sales. According to Cohen and Bodnar, you aren’t buying leads with your marketing efforts; instead, you should seek to buy customers. Social media created a complex path to lead generation, which makes it critical to understand how to create leads using your social efforts.

From this session, here are the three keys to generating leads using social media.

1. Build a network of strong ties

Building a relationship with potential customers is a critical first, second and third step. According to the presentation, 60% of the sales cycle is over before a buyer talks to your salesperson. B2B connections are really about people-to-people. People at your company are doing business with people at another company. Get to know them online, make connections, communicate and share information.

In order to create leads, you need to have interaction, affection and time, which are all aided by social media. The best way to create strong ties through the social space is to follow, friend and connect. Remember that you are taking these actions with people, not corporate accounts, so treat these relationships accordingly.

2. Influence connections for content sharing

Publishing and sharing content online is the single biggest lever to increase lead generation. What should you write about? Well, prospects don’t care about your products. They want solutions to their problems. So the content you create, in an effort to drive people to landing pages and generate leads, has to be helpful.  The half-life of a social media link, according to Cohen and Bodnar, is three hours. After that, you’ll need to regenerate interest to drive toward a link. One of the best ways to create a content strategy is to follow the 10-4-1 rule. The rule states that your social accounts should drive to:

  • 10 links to third-party articles
  • 4 links to your blog posts
  • 1 link to your landing page

How often do you use the 10-4-1 rule? Base that on the “4″. In other words, as often as you have four blog posts is as often as you can use this rule. So if it takes you a week to create four blog posts then use this rule weekly.

3. Master social conversion

The big question in social media, in regards to generating leads, is: How do you get someone to take the action you want them to take? Cohen and Bodnar discussed the idea of social proof, which states that people want to feel safe when they have anxiety or feel uncomfortable. When it comes to the web, people are always anxious. After all, that’s why search is so popular. People are asking questions and looking for solutions to their problems and anxieties. So keep that in mind when joining in conversations and be the solution.

The formula for social conversion, which is getting people to do what you want them to do, is:

social proof + strong ties = social conversion

One way to create social proof is to use testimonials, which presents recommendations that can ease concerns about taking action. For instance, Bodnar explained that at HubSpot, they experimented with putting Tweeted testimonials below an ebook call to action. The result was a 27% click through rate increase.

The key is to create awesome content and reduce the friction around sharing it. Whether that means posting on LinkedIn or putting landing pages on Facebook, the less work people need to do to share, the better.