The hidden sales cycle is a term coined by the Aberdeen Group to describe the impact of social media, content marketing, and the frictionless connections on the modern buyer’s decision journey. Our buyers today have nearly unlimited access to information that helps them identify business problems and the products and solutions intended to solve them. Social media can be a powerful tool in navigating the hidden sales cycle, and for content marketing in general, but what, exactly, does this connection entail? Here are a few things to consider…

Address Heightened Customer Expectations: With higher information consumption, our buyers have developed higher expectations of the organizations with whom they do business. Through social media, we can be available and accessible to our customers in a scalable channel, and we have the opportunity to build relationships with prospects in an informal, more personal environment. Beyond the significance in social relationships, social currencies also carry weight on our credibility as well. Things like followers, likes, shares, etc. are often dismissed as vanity metrics, but they can still have a bearing on how our buyers see us. Like a storefront of a brick and mortar business, if a social presence seems shady, buyers might think the same of that business’s offerings.

Build a Connected Community:  Social Media is all about building connections, not only between a us and our customers, but between our customers  and other customers or topical experts. As valuable as the content we share may be, we also have the opportunity to deliver value by connecting relevant people together. Think of real life scenarios where you might connect one friend who has a challenge to another friend who has a solution. Though you’re only creating the connection, both friends benefit from it, and both relationships become stronger. In the same way, by creating connections among members of your social community, you can add value beyond content or insights.

Experiment with Social Nurturing: We’re living in a publish or perish world, and if we’re not providing valuable content to our customers and potential customers at each stage of the buyer’s journey, then we’re not doing our jobs. We do not, however, have to provide value in only one channel in only one way. Although marketing automation may be the easiest, most measurable way to guide our buyers through the funnel in lead nurturing emails, we also have the opportunity to structure our social media communications in a way that nurtures our buyers as well. On Twitter, for example, you could schedule a mix of general top-funnel content, topically hashtagged mid-funnel content, and even in bottom-funnel interactions connecting sellers to specific prospects to cover all stages of the buyer’s journey. Email may be where lead nurturing originated, but social media channels are ripe for innovation.

Augment Your Outbound Strategy:  According to Aberdeen’s research, 60% of B2B marketing leads are generated through direct, or outbound marketing – the remaining 40% are attributed to inbound. Outbound marketing is far from dead, but it has changed. Like introducing ourselves to someone new at an event, outbound marketing requires that we reach out, but it also affords us to be inviting in a very inbound manner. By providing social media channels as less formal avenues for our prospects to respond to our outbound campaigns, we still give them the control and choice they’ve come to expect in this multi-channel marketing environment.

For more information on the connections between social media and content marketing, download the 5 Habits of Highly Effective Content Marketers report.