Forbes writer makes ‘Catastrophic’ mistake

lead-generation-social-mediaTo set the record straight on the hyperbolic title of this post, I’ll immediately disclose that this is in response to a hyperbolic article written on by Steve Olenski.

Steve titled his article, The Catastrophic Social Media Content Marketing Mistake Marketers Are Making. This title was purely link bait, as the point made by Steve in the post was not only less than catastrophic, it was dead wrong.

His thesis is that using social media for lead generation and using it for direct sales is the same thing. Steve believes you should only use social media for branding and relationship building, and lead generation has nothing to do with either one.  Only someone from another planet would base an article in Forbes using that as their thesis.  Please, let me explain.

Lead Generation Bigger Social Media Objective Than Branding

First off, Steve Olenski’s spaced-out rant on was in response to the chart below published on

Lead Generation Bigger Social Objective Than Branding

More companies cite lead generation (37%) than branding (27%) as their main social media advertising objective, according to a new study from Econsultancy in association with Adobe.

In the Forbes article, Steve is upset that companies spend more time doing lead generation than branding on social media.  He then clarifies why, as he equates lead generation with direct selling and states that lead generation is:

  • Putting more emphasis on selling than establishing relationships
  • Trying to sell something rather than telling a story
  • Being only in “it” to increase the bottom line

These statements from Steve are so far off that I can’t help to think that they don’t have Twitter on his planet.  That wouldn’t be true, however.  Steve has over 4,500 twitter friends. So let me set the record straight for my new friend…

Lead generation and direct selling are not the same thing (click to tweet this to Steve).

As a matter of fact, they are in two different ballparks.  To understand why, I suggest you start by reading a fantastic post on the subject titled Only losers sell on social media – How to sell and not be a loser.

Lead Generation is more like Branding then Selling

Lead generation is far closer to branding than it is to selling.  Lead generation is about identifying people who are interested in your product.   Lead generation is about giving the right people the opportunity to opt-in to learn more.  Lead generation is then about sharing with them more about your product or service so they can make an informed buying decision.

Only after these steps does lead generation become about sales.  This is no different than branding.  The ultimate objective of branding is about selling just like lead generation, that is why I’m so confused by Steve Olenski rant in Forbes.

Branding is about marketing to a demographic of unidentified people, while lead generation is about giving these people the chance to identify themselves.  Isn’t knowing who people are one of the biggest advances made by social media? Doesn’t that make social media the ideal platform for branded lead generation?

What is and is Not Lead Generation?

Lead generation is not about making a hard sale to someone by sending them an unsolicited direct message on Twitter with a link to a “buy now” page.  That is a strategy for losers.

Lead generation using social media is about sharing relevant content to generate a signup on an opt-in form.  This content could be a free video, blog post, webinar, white paper, or ebook.  Regardless of the format, the more useful the content, the better branding you will get as people share it, and the better leads you will get as people trust you more.

If you share useless content, you will not generate leads!  Therefore sharing useless content is not considered a lead generation activity.

Lead Generation is Relationship Building

Another point Steve Olenski tries to make in his Forbes article is that you should make relationship building your top priority on social media.  Then Steve suggest that lead generation does not lead to relationship building. Unless you are from another planet, lead generation in itself is relationship building.

How can you build a relationship with someone who you don’t know?  The point of lead generation is identifying people, understanding their needs, and relating those needs to the products and services you offer.  On this planet, that’s a great foundation for building a relationship with a potential customer.

Someone please send a space telegram to Steve with this message…

When Lead Generation Goes Bad

To be fair to my friend Steve, I think he is equating the act of lead generation with what often happens afterward.

There are a few cases when I have signed-up for a free white paper and then got an immediate full-court press from sales.  This is not a best practice.  There should never be a time when you get a new lead in your database and send them directly to sales.

What should happen instead is that you put this lead into a lead nurturing program.  I suggest you read this article on lead nurturing if this concept is new to you.  Lead nurturing as the next step after lead generation is the best practice.

So while Steve Olenski may have a minor point that it’s “Catastrophic” to go from lead generation directly to sales, he is being disingenuous by using an obvious non-best practice as the premise for his argument. I would truly expect a writer on Forbes to do better than that.


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