This is the last in a series of posts where I had started by summarizing the key differences between Social and Traditional Marketing Automation. As the title of this series suggests, we believe that Social (SMA) and Traditional Marketing Automation (TMA) are complementary processes and while we see significant advantages in SMA, it is too premature for any company to completely abandon TMA in favor of SMA.

In my last post, I had discussed the details of how leads are scored through the two processes.

This post will complete the journey and this time, we will look at the differences in the way by which lead nurturing is carried out between TMA and SMA.

While Lead Identification and Scoring are important steps in the Demand Generation process, Lead Nurturing is really where the rubber hits the road. This is where you gather all the insights you have about the leads and systematically ‘nurture’ them with content that is ideally personalized based on the leads’ interests and stage in the buying cycle.

This is where users of current Marketing Automation systems have told us they face the biggest challenge.

While these systems do a great job of automating processes that were run manually earlier, the jury is still out on whether they help in creating significantly better response rates from the leads.

There are a couple of reasons why the doubts exist:

1. Apart from capturing the basic ‘demographic’ information about the leads, the ‘behavioral’ data that these systems capture is limited to the activities and properties that are owned by the vendor. By this, I mean that you are essentially tracking whether a lead opens an email sent by you, clicks on links within it, visits your website and fills a form. You have very little idea about other aspects of the lead’s online behavior.

How can SMA help? Because SMA tracks conversations and profiles that are shared publicly by the lead (without in most cases caring about specific vendors), the information that you can gather about the lead is much more comprehensive and less vendor-biased. You may find out that while the lead has not responded to many emails you have sent him, he is actively talking very positively about your competitor on social channels. Maybe it is time to drop the lead?

2. The most widely used channel of engagement within TMA is e-mail. While email works well in terms of scale (the incremental cost of sending another thousand emails is close to zero), it is also a very closed channel where you have no idea if it even reached the lead without landing in the Spam folder.

How can SMA help? One of the other advantages of social channels is that you have a variety of methods possible to employ with the lead to gauge their interest. For example, before you start tweeting mentions to a raw lead, you may want to follow the lead to see if the interest is reciprocated. If the lead does follow you back, that may result in his/her score being automatically increased (refer to the earlier post about Lead Scoring based on behavior on social channels) and then you can send a tweet to the lead with a specific call to action. You can also analyze the lead’s network on different social channels to find out if there’s a way to engage with him/her without ‘cold’ tweeting/posting.

One last word of caution – please ensure that you respect the privacy of the leads on social channels and do not use tools that ‘scrape’ or otherwise pick up demographic or behavioral data about the leads which have not been publicly shared. One sure way to lose credibility is to start using information that the lead thought was being privately shared only to find you misusing it.

In summary, there are significant advantages that SMA brings to the table across the entire demand generation process. If you are already using TMA, SMA can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your TMA process. If you are new to the world of Marketing Automation, you could even begin directly with SMA and quickly gauge whether it meets your needs on a standalone basis. I would love to hear your thoughts about where you are with TMA/SMA.

I will be following up with a couple of posts about Profiling using SMA and how Predictive Analytics can help with SMA based Lead Scoring – stay tuned!