Social Media Lead Generation with Q&A Forums


Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer wrote a great post today about social media lead generation through participation in question-and-answer (Q&A) forums such as LinkedIn Answers, Business.com Answers, Yahoo! Answers, etc. In it, he provides highlights of our recently-released report covering social media best practices for Q&A forums as well as additional perspective from his own poll asking LinkedIn users how often they answer questions on LinkedIn for lead generation purposes.

A comment on the post from ‘derekedmond’ caught my eye because of how well it reflects some of the Q&A success stories from the study and Business.com Answers I wrote about in a prior post. Here is his comment:

“I have some friends and colleagues absolutely killing it with forums/question-answer-sites (wrote a post on my personal blog about this a few weeks ago). The reason being is that for small niches, if you can find a passionate audience or community your site/product satisfies a need with, it’s amazing the amount of traffic, exposure, and links one can get.

My experience is that you have to dig deeper to find the most value and opportunities – and there is certainly less support/public examples to go by, but with patience and perseverance it can definitely work.”

The core issue he speaks to is “quality” – an online forum in which a dialog quickly forms between people seeking answers to important questions and experts (often vendors) who have answers to those questions delivers a high-quality experience and amazing results for both parties.  This is what lead gen should be: people with real needs connecting with someone who can help them meet that need.

Q&A Forum Characteristics Impact Lead Gen Opportunities

Unfortunately, this quality Q&A experience is often very difficult to achieve in broad, general forums such as Yahoo! Answers which depend on the combination of high traffic volume and the search skills of those asking and answering questions for these high-quality dialogs to form. Macro-niche forums like LinkedIn Answers can deliver a somewhat better experience by attracting a more targeted audience but rely on those with questions and those with high quality answers to find one another. Micro-niche forums like derekedmond mentions are at the other extreme – great, very focused discussions but can be both difficult to find and may not be broad enough to be something most experts would frequently monitor or participate in.

Moderated B2B Q&A with Business.com Answers

Business.com Answers

With Business.com Answers, our own business Q&A site we launched a few months ago, we’re working to combine the best of micro- and macro-niche Q&A forums to make it easier for business people to form high quality dialogs around specific business needs.

Millions of business people visit the Business.com site each month to find something they need for their business – the site combines the most popular B2B online directory with tens of thousands of business how-to guides and, with the introduction of Business.com Answers, the ability to directly post their business questions on the site.

To help people get the best possible answers to their questions, we’re taking a more proactive approach than other large-scale Q&A forums, reaching out to subject-area experts and relevant vendors with specific questions they should be able to answer. This more ‘personal’ introduction to Business.com Answers also helps us reinforce a number of the best practices for participating in Q&A forums that we wrote about in the recent report covered by Jason Falls.

If you participate in Q&A forums for lead generation purposes today, or are thinking about doing so in the near future, give Business.com Answers a try. And if you’re already using Business.com Answers, we’d love to hear more about your experience and the results you’re seeing!


Social Media Best Practices – The Q&A Conundrum


Do online question-and-answer (Q&A) forums like Yahoo! Answers, LinkedIn Answers, Answers.com – or the recently launched Business.com Answers – offer a significant opportunity to better engage with prospects and customers, generate leads and drive revenue? Yes, they do, but success depends on following social media best practices.

Q&A forums should provide an excellent place for people with specific questions to connect with experts or others who have direct experience in that area. For example, participants in our recent Business Social Media Benchmarking Study described the benefits of Q&A forums this way:

“I was trying to fix something with one of my products for weeks. I searched Google for hours looking for an answer. I finally broke down and asked the question on a forum site that I use. Within a day I had three answers, all of which fixed the problem. Since then I ask the question first and Google second.” - Owner, 1-4 employee company, Food & Beverage industry

“I gained a new client from answering questions on LinkedIn.” - Head of Marketing, 5-9 employee company

“When first trying to grow our social media following, the moment we shifted to answering questions instead of just broadcasting links was when things really took off for us.” - Manager, 20-49 employee company, Telecommunications industry

Q&A forum success stories are also evident in the forums themselves, such as these examples from Business.com Answers:

Pam, a regional manager at Nutrition Research Group, posts a question on Business.com Answers looking for a wholesale sports nutrition distributor in Washington or Oregon to sell their products. Anthony Mercurio from Advantis Nutrition responds, Pam visits the Advantis Nutrition web site and requests more information about distribution opportunities.

Sharron, business development/sales manager at The Esmeralda Inn in North Carolina, question asking for advice on marketing the hotel for overnight workshops and meetings. The same day, Gina, the owner of publisher Serendipity Media Group in Fresno, California, responds that she’d be interested in setting up a writing seminar at The Esmeralda Inn.

However, many business experts with the most valuable answers to share do not yet participate in Q&A forums or, like these Business Social Media Benchmarking Study participants, find that Q&A forum participation has been less fruitful and/or more challenging than they would like:

“I believe the LinkedIn answers I have provided have been nothing but a waste of valuable time.” – Sole Proprietor

“On Yahoo! Answers and LinkedIn Answers it is hard to find questions related to our industry and to keep consistent searches going so we can answer in a timely manner.” – Individual Contributor, 100-499 employee company

To help companies get the most out of Q&A forum participation and drive business results, we just released the latest report in our business social media benchmarking series, Social Media Best Practices: Question & Answer Forums. This free, 42-page report provides a unique holistic perspective on the use of business Q&A forums from the combined insights of both Q&A users – over 1,100 people who currently turn to Q&A forums for business information or advice – and Q&A ‘Experts’, over 800 companies participating in Q&A forums as a way to build awareness of company products or services, attract web site visitors and generate leads.

Visit http://www.business.com/info/social-media-best-practices-q-and-a to download this free report and we’d love to hear your Q&A forum success stories (or horror stories!) in the comments section below.


VIDEO: The Challenge with Measuring B2B Online Conversions


One area of marketing that remains strong despite the economic downturn is B2B search marketing.   However, as we found in our recent B2B web analytics study involving more than 27,000 B2B web sites, most B2B marketers are still struggling to understand which search marketing campaigns are driving their online conversions.

Watch my recent interview with WebProNews to learn more about understanding web analytics and the best B2B online conversion tracking tools.

Ben Hanna Video


Social Media Marketing to Small Businesses – New Research


In the latest report from our Business Social Media Benchmarking Study research, “Engaging Small Business Decision Makers Through Social Media,” we address a key question on the minds of companies marketing to small business:

What are the best social media channels for reaching and engaging with small business decision makers?

The answer, it turns out, depends very significantly on the industry you target for your company’s products or services, whether or not you target business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) companies and, at small businesses with 10-99 employees, the job level of your target decision maker (e.g., middle-management vs. senior management vs. C-level).

The results we report are based on insights from over 1,700 participants in a middle management (Director, Department Head, Supervisor) or above role in a small business (<100 employees) in the US or Canada. All of these study participants currently use one or more social media resources for business-relevant information in their day-to-day job. Here are some of the key findings:

  • Overall, the most popular social media resources small business decision makers turn to for business are webinars and podcasts, user ratings and reviews of business products and services, and business profiles (accounts, fan pages, channels, etc.) on social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other sites.
  • Small business decision makers are attracted to the speed and convenience with which they can find or request business-relevant information from social media channels. For example, webinars save the time and expense of travel for professional education.
  • Industry has a major impact on both the number of social media resources used for business and the most popular types. For example, small business decision makers in the Healthcare, Retail and Legal industries use significantly fewer social media resources for business than study respondents from other industries.
  • Within small businesses, company size (sole proprietor vs. micro-business with 1-9 employees vs. small business with 10-99 employees) and job role or department in a company aren’t related to business social media usage in any meaningful way.
  • We can gain some very interesting insights into the likely evolution of business social media usage by looking across industries and at small business decision makers with different levels of social media experience.

Visit http://www.business.com/info/engaging-small-business-through-social-media to download a copy of the complete 40 pg. report with 32 charts.