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By Collin and Christina Canright, Canright Communications

One of the best ways to generate leads is to show what you know, and one of the best ways to show what you know is through great content. By distributing articles, blog posts, newsletters, reports, and other materials, you can become a trusted source on social media sites and feed your social media program with content that educates your prospects. In this way, your business can help theirs.

It’s called content marketing. Content marketing is the use of relevant and educational content to engage an audience and generate interest in an organization and its mission. Here are three content marketing tools you can use to feed your social media lead generating machine:

1. Enter the “white paper,” a ubiquitous and established tool.

White papers have become a cornerstone of most lead-generating campaigns, and the format continues to be one of the most thriving campaign tools following the economic downturn. According to the “2009 Media Consumption Report” from TechTarget, the white paper continues to be the favorite content source buyers turn to when evaluating new technology. The content format also continues to have strong viral impact; nearly 93% of readers pass along up to half of the white papers they read and download, according to InformationWeek’s Best Practices Research Series on white papers.

For business marketers, white papers provide a way of generating leads in a way that builds trust and enhances reputations. A well-written white paper indicates that you and your organization are on the cutting edge, that you are a thought leader in your field, or that you know a market or technology extremely well. White papers can enhance your company’s credibility, educate prospects about your services, inform potential customers about ways to improve their business and profitability, and even change the world to make it a better place for your business, friends, and family.

2. The ebook: White paper alternative or replacement?

Like a white paper, a pertinent and relevant ebook is a powerful lead-generating tool. The ebook is essentially a unique twist on the white paper format. The format provides a more engaging experience for the reader, builds a case, and uses a more design-intensive format. It’s fun, too. You see a lot of retro ’50s and early ’60s style designs and unique graphics in ebooks. This is definitely not a white paper style.

Just like a well-formed white paper, an ebook tells your prospects that you are a credible source of information, giving you that sought-after expert status. The best part about an ebook is that it is distributed widely for free and is intended to go viral.

In “The New Rules of Viral Marketing,” David Meerman Scott goes so far to say, “ebooks have become the stylish younger sister to the nerdy white paper.” He further stresses the importance the ebook serves by stating that, “ebooks have a great deal of importance to readers. People can instantly see the value of a product that looks like for-purchase content but can actually be downloaded for free. In my opinion, ebooks should be material people want to read, compared to the dense and usually boring white paper, which our buyers feel they should read but often don’t.”  We believe that each are valid tools. It all depends upon the specific marketing message and the audience you are trying to reach. And, the release of an ebook can also be a web and social media catalyst.

3. And…Don’t discount email as a relevant tool for generating leads

When new innovations hit and catch fire, they are exciting partly because they fill a need, and partly because they are new. As each new tool becomes accepted, the old tools, such as steady email, take a back seat. But just because they are in the background doesn’t mean they are not necessary. Where would you be without email?

Each member of the social media trinity—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter—can reach an audience, but that audience isn’t necessarily following your updates as religiously as they’re checking their email. People may log in to Facebook several times a day, but their email windows are constantly open. The fact remains: email is still popular.

Indeed, eMarketer reported in November 2009 that college students are holding tight to email use despite the explosion in social networking sites. “These results may be surprising to some, but not if you consider the role email continues to play in the day-to-day lives of Gen Y,” the report stated. “As long as email remains the collection point for social networking updates, including alerts around new followers, discussion updates and friend requests, it will remain a powerful force in marketing and our lives.”

Similarly, SocialTwist, a widget provider, reported in Social Media Sharing Trends 2009 that, “Despite the social media revolution – traditional forms of networking like email and instant messaging continue to be the most popular mediums of sharing content across the Internet. Nearly 60 percent of overall sharing happens over emails.”

So don’t discount the email newsletter and bulletin. For many businesses, a monthly email newsletter, coupled with social media posts, can do more to bring leads in the door than anything else. It keeps your content right where they live—in email—and markets through education, which is the most effective thing any marketing tool can do.

Christina Canright is president of Canright Communications where she focuses on content design and art direction. Collin Canright is a principal of Canright Communications where he focuses on communications consulting and content writing. Having been in business for more than 20 years, Canright Communications’ specialties are ebooks; white papers; websites; sales, presentation and marketing collateral; and technical and software manuals.

For more info, you may contact Christina at [email protected] , visit or catch up with them on their blog at