Online Marketing Strategies - Money Journal

The Definitive Guide to Generating Leads on Social Media with a $0 Budget

How would you like to generate dozens of leads on autopilot through social media… without having to spend a dime on ads?

Just imagine waking up each and every day and seeing your CRM filled with tons of potential new customers?

How would that feel?

What would it do for your business, your revenue, and even your personal life?

I know that this might sound a little bit far-fetched to most people.

After all, social media has become a notoriously “pay to play”.

Many of you are probably wondering if it’s actually possible to generate leads on social media without spending an exorbitant amount of money on advertising? And if so, how in the world do you actually do it?

Well, sit back and strap in, because that’s exactly what we will be covering in today’s article.

Is it Even Possible to Generate Leads on Social Media without Spending Money?

To provide you with a blunt answer: Yes.

Yes, it is.

But… (and this is a big But)

It is much more difficult than using paid lead generation tactics.

The online world is becoming more and more profit driven and nearly every company that aggregates data (think search engines, video engines, and social media platforms) are changing their algorithms to reduce the effectiveness of unpaid organic reach thus increasing their bottom line.

So before we dive into today’s article, I want to be very clear.

If you follow the tactics that I am about to lay out for you, yes, you will be able to generate a respectable number of leads through social media.

But…  if you are willing to whip out your credit card, you will be able to generate more targeted leads at a much faster pace.

And it should also be noted that, with the marked exception of Snapchat, directly selling through social media without paying for ads is nearly impossible.

So, if you are bootstrapping your business and genuinely do not have the money that you need to invest in social media lead generation, then you can make it work and this guide will show you how.

But, if you are just looking for a way to scrimp on your marketing budget and save a few dollars, then do yourself a favor and go the paid route (you can check out my podcast episode on PPC vs. SEO for more information on paid advertising)

With all that out of the way, let’s get started.

Pick Your Poison

Before you can dive into the world of social media lead generation, you first need to decide which platform(s) is/are right for your company.

The key to making an educated decision on this issue is to first have an intimate and detailed knowledge of your ideal customer persona.

How old are they? What are their buying habits? Where do they shop? What are they interested in?

The following data will help you make your decision, but only if you already possess an in-depth understanding of who you are targeting.

So before you read any further, make sure that you have your ideal customer avatar handy.

Otherwise, you will be throwing punches in the dark.

(Big shoutout to HootSuite for compiling all of the following demographic data)

1. Facebook

  • 1.86 billion monthly users

  • More than 1.09 billion people use Facebook daily
  • Facebook has 989 million mobile daily active users
  • 1.51 billion mobile monthly active users
  • 84.2% of daily active users are outside the US and Canada
  • 71 percent of American adults on the internet use Facebook
  • 76 percent of all females U.S internet users use on Facebook
  • 66 percent of all male U.S internet users use Facebook
  • 82 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds online use Facebook
  • 79 percent of 30 to 49-year-olds online use Facebook
  • 56 percent of online users ages 65 and up use Facebook

2. Instagram 

  • Instagram has grown to over 500 million monthly users
  • 59% of those monthly users visit Instagram every day and 35% visit several times a day
  • 31% of women use Instagram on a regular basis
  • 24% of men use Instagram no a regular basis

  • 55% of all online 18-29-year-olds use Instagram
  • Only 4% of adults over 65 have or use an Instagram account

3, Twitter

  • 66% of Twitter users have used Twitter to discover a small or medium sized business (SMBs)
  • 74% have retweeted one of these SMBs
  • 69% have already purchased something from an SMB they found on Twitter
  • 79% of Twitter accounts are located outside of the US
  • Only 23% of the adult population in the U.S. uses Twitter
  • 32% of internet users between the age of 18 and 29 use Twitter on a regular basis

4. LinkedIn

  • LinkedIn has roughly 103 million MUAs
  • LinkedIn boasts over 414 million total accounts
  • 56% of LinkedIn users are males
  • Almost 25% of LinkedIn users are under the age of 30

A Few Lead Generation Axioms…

So now that you have a few statistics that will help you decide which platforms to use, let’s talk about a few axioms of social media lead generation that you can use regardless of your choice.

1. Promote Relevant Content that is Tailored to your Platform

The first key to successful lead generation is relevance, both to your audience and to your platform.

A problem that I see occurring all too often among online marketers is that they will promote content that is either unrelated to their niche and industry or that isn’t tailored to the social platform that they are using.

For example, you will occasionally see people posting long quotes on Instagram, which is a platform primarily used for beautiful, eye-catching images.

Or you will see marketing and sales websites promoting a piece of political content on their Facebook page in an attempt to strike controversy and drive traffic.

If you want to succeed with social media lead generation, then you need to keep your content relevant to your niche, and tailor the style of that content to the platforms you decide to use.

2. Treat Your Social Media Accounts Like Your Website

Social media is just as important (if not more so) than your company’s website.

One of the biggest axioms of successful social media lead generation is that you treat your social media accounts just like you would your business’s website.

If you want to generate leads, then you need to take social seriously.

Make sure that all of your pictures are professional, properly sized, and congruent with your brand imaging.

Look at how the following companies optimized their social appearance to improve their branding and customer engagement.


Eliminate any typos from your posts and avoid posting irrelevant personal information or beliefs on a business social account.

Treat it like your online “retail space” for customers, because that is effectively what it is.

3. Become a Content ‘Aggregator’ (Not Just a Self-Promoter)

A common social media mistake that many rookies (and even veterans) make is that they solely promote their own content on social media.

One of the keys to building a thriving community without having to pay for ads or run crazy expensive marketing campaigns is to create an account that other people find extremely valuable.

And one of the best ways to do that is to ensure that you are constantly pouring over the internet to aggregate and collect the “best of the web” in your particular niche or industry.

This tactic is great for a number of reasons.

For starters, it will build brand loyalty and keep people on your social media page.

When they notice that they can access all of their favorite content from your Facebook page or Twitter feed, they will stay on your page longer and be more likely to remain loyal to your brand.

In addition to the loyalty that you will build, when you begin aggregating content and growing your following, other companies will begin to notice the traffic that is pouring into their website from your social media accounts.

Often times they will reciprocate by offering to share your content on their social page, thus expanding your organic reach and building relationships with other industry leaders.

4. Carefully Track Your Analytics 

Peter F. Druker, the famous executive and business “guru” once said “What gets measured gets managed” and even though I have probably shared this quote 100 times here on the blog, it still rings true today.

Most of the clients with whom I work completely overlook the power of social media analytics.

While they will meticulously track their Google ranking, page views, bounce rate and the plethora of other data about their website, they simply don’t pay attention to those same metrics as they pertain to their social media.

To put things bluntly, if you are not regularly tracking, analyzing and adjusting your social media tactics based on analytics data, then you are doomed to failure.

It only takes a few minutes a day to determine what content is driving the most traffic to your website, what kind of posts are creating the most engagement, and what specifically is helping you generate leads.

5. Leverage Gated Content to “Bribe” Potential Leads 

One of the single most important tactics in free social media lead generation is the use and promotion of gated content , a.k.a. a lead magnet.

This is the quickest and simplest way that you can convince potential leads to give you their information and is extremely cost effective.

The first step in this process is to gain an intimate knowledge of your customers to figure out exactly what their biggest pain points are.

Then, with this knowledge in hand, it is now your job to develop a free solution to that problem and then offer it to your target audience in the form of a free ebook, video course, or even a 1-on-1 consultation.

But there’s a catch.

To receive this solution, potential customers must first input their contact information and give you permission to include them in your email marketing list.

This ethical form of bribing allows you to qualify leads who are interested in your ultimate solution, provide a temporary solution to their problems with your lead magnet, and develop insane amounts of trust by over delivering on your promises.

For example on this site, I researched my audience until I realized that most of my readers had two big problems.

Starting an online business and growing their business once it was started.

And so, I created my lead magnets to help provide the solution.

This tactic is the backbone for all online lead generation so be sure to invest the time necessary to create a powerful offer that will provide real value to your audience.

Now, let’s talk about platform specific tactics that you can use to predictably generate leads and keep the good times rolling.

Generating Leads with Facebook

Let me just rip the band-aid off the wound right now…

Facebook is almost entirely pay to play.

In recent years, the folks over at Facebook have aggressively changed the algorithm to limit the effectiveness of organic content and award marketers who are willing to invest heavily into Facebook ads.

It’s not pleasant, it’s just the way it is.

But…  this is not a death sentence for a no-cost lead generation campaign.

Here’s how you can get started for free.

1. Use Facebook Groups and then Direct Message B2B Leads 

The first and easiest way to generate leads (if you run a B2B) company is to dive into a wide variety of niche related Facebook groups.

These groups will give you an opportunity to share your expertise, offer real value to the community, and organically grow your following by providing this value on a consistent basis.

But there’s more.

These groups will also give you the opportunity to find leads who need help and need it now.

Within the group, there will always be those individuals who are in dire need of the services that you provide.

Once you learn to pick up on the patterns that these highly qualified leads tend to follow they tend to hint at their needs within the group comments. Look for commonalities within group posts and offer your help.

After building a surface-level relationship, you can request to message them directly through Facebook and begin the nurture and sales processes.

2. Run and Promote Joint Webinars 

Webinars are one of the best ways to quickly grow your lead base without spending copious amounts of money on advertising.

And while I know that this is not necessarily a Facebook specific tactic, I have found that Facebook is the most effective platform for promoting and getting potential leads to join webinars.

If you can run a webinar with another influencer or industry leader in your niche, you have the combined organic reach of your platforms and this will provide you with an opportunity to build up a high-quality list of emails and then share those leads to grow your businesses in tandem.

3. Run a Facebook Contest 

People love free stuff.

And Facebook gives you an excellent platform to run viral giveaways and contests that will naturally grow your email list.

Here is a simple three step process for running an effective Facebook giveaway.

  1. Make Sure the Offer is Relevant to Your Business: Don’t offer a free iPad if you run an organic dog food store. Run an offer that will generate qualified leads and get people excited about your company and your product.
  2. Keep Entrance Simple: You want to limit the barrier to entry as much as possible. In order to grow your organic reach while making entry simple, I recommend that you only ask entrants to input their email address and share the contest with two friends in order to be entered to win.
  3. Once the Contest Concludes Make a Special Offer: When the contest concludes, send out an email with the subject line “The winner of the xyz contest is…”. Nearly everyone who entered will open the email. Once you have them hooked, announce the winner (by name) and then transition into the heading “Everyone is a Winner Because…” and offer all entrants a discount or special offer pertaining to the original contest

I have found that this simple formula works wonders for lead generation and can provide you with a surprisingly effective way to indirectly generate sales from Facebook.

Generating Leads with Twitter

Twitter is probably the last brand that comes to mind when you think of lead generation, and this is a shame.

Despite its waning prowess in the social media game, Twitter is still a major player and offers you many different ways to generate leads on a shoestring (or nonexistent) budget.

Here’s how.

1. Use Twitter Cards

Twitter Lead Generation Cards are a fantastic way to quickly generate new leads.

Released back in 2013 specifically for the purposes of lead generation (as the name implies), companies have been leveraging Twitter cards to generate massive numbers of leads since its release.

Rock/Creek was able to generate over 1,700 email leads in less than a week exclusively by using Twitter cards, and you can replicate their results as long as you are willing to learn the craft.

2. Track Your Brand Mentions

If you are not tracking what people are saying about your brand or product then you are missing out on potential leads and even sales on Twitter.

This makes it imperative that you install some sort of social tracker that allows you to keep tabs on who is mentioning your brand and products and what they are saying.

If you setup the tracker properly and have a dedicated employee who can enter into conversations about your brand in real time, you will be surprised at how many leads and sales you can generate.

3. Put Together Events 

Gary Vaynerchuk is famous for his philosophy (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook) that businesses should give loads of value before they ever ask for anything in return.

And following this formula is a great way to generate leads through Twitter.

By hosting industry (not company) specific events where you focus entirely on giving value without asking for anything in return (up front) you can turn Twitter into one of your biggest allies.

The best way to do this is to host an AMA or similar event where you can answer audience members burning questions.

When leads see your expertise and realize how much value you have to offer, a simple call to action at the end of the event will typically result in a massive influx of leads and sales.

Generating Leads with LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a phenomenal tool for B2B lead generation.

However, LinkedIn lead generation is a lot like Rome… it won’t be built in a day.

The best way that I have found to generate leads through social media is to follow this 6 step process that is summarized as follows.

1. Optimize your Profile

LinkedIn is the social network for professionals.

If you are using selfies for your profile picture, filling your bio with teenage slang and profanity, or giving off the semblance that you lack professionalism in any way, the rest of this process is all for naught.

Make sure that you take the time to optimize your LinkedIn profile so that other professionals see your account and actually want to do business with you.

You want a profile that looks like this.

Not this…

2. Create Your Own Group

The next step in this process is to create your own industry specific group on LinkedIn.

The goal of this group should be first and foremost to provide massive value to your industry and create a place where professionals from all walks can enter in, have an intelligent conversation, and provide real value to one another.

3. Create a List of Potential Customers 

With your group created, you should spend some serious time responding to comments and seeking to provide as much value as possible to all of your members.

After analyzing a few of their websites, social profiles, and comments, you will notice a handful of group members who seem like a perfect match for your company.

Create a list of these members and get ready for step #4.

4. Connect with Members of Your “Lead List”

Now that you have a list of potential leads developed, it’s time to start connecting with them and build another layer of trust prior to asking for the sale.

Simply reach out to them and tell them that you noticed their questions in the group.

Provide in-depth responses via direct message and act as their consultant on the issue.

The action of showcasing your expertise to potential clients and providing them with real value within the boundaries of this process will act as your lead magnet.

5. Invite them to a Webinar

Now that you have established even more trust, it’s time to invite them to a webinar that you will host.

Within this webinar, maintain the same attitude of giving value first and asking for value second.

Use the first 80% of the webinar to get to know your attendees, provide them with some real value, and answer their questions before you ask for their email addresses (or even a sale).

6. Rinse and Repeat

You can repeat this process as many times as you see fit, either creating new groups or simply growing your existing group until you are able to generate a sufficient number of leads.

I personally recommend that you grow several groups over time.

If you are able to create a high-quality group, it will typically reach its “tipping point” (the point where there are so many members that this strategy is no longer viable) rather quickly.

Generating Leads with Instagram

Instagram is an interesting platform.

Unlike other social media accounts, you are only able to share one link per account and it is only available in your bio.

This makes it much more challenging to actually get clients to your squeeze page or landing page.

However, it is still possible, and here’s how you can do it.

1. Use Your Bio-Link 

The first step in mastering Instagram lead generation is to use your bio link!

Let me say it again….use your bio link!

If you are not using the link in your account’s bio to send viewers back to your website (or better yet a lead magnet/squeeze page) then you are literally wasting all of your effort.


This might seem like a given, but you would be surprised how many accounts I see without a pertinent link in their bio.

2. Use Instagram Stories

Instagram stories are a great way for you to connect with your audience, promote your latest product or service, and get audience members to your landing page.

This provides a much more real and authentic view of you and your company and if your users are engaged with your brand, it will be one of the first things to pop up on the top of their Instagram feed.

Just like with webinars, I recommend that you use Instagram stories with an 80/20 split.

Offer free value and brand insights 80% of the time and offer sales and lead capture opportunities the other 20%.

3. Collaborate with other Influencers

One of the quickest ways to grow your Instagram following and organically increase the number of leads that you can generate from your bio is to collaborate with other Instagram influencers.

While this step is typically predicated on the fact that you should already have a significant number of followers, if you bring enough value to the table, you would be surprised how often big brands and influential people are willing to work with you regardless of your following.

You can do everything from an Instagram takeover to sharing killer posts and asking for credit, to promoting other brands content in exchange for a shout out.

4. Pay Attention to Your Comments

The biggest mistake that most companies make on Instagram is that they ignore the comments on their posts.

While many entrepreneurs avoid responding to comments because of the excessive number of internet trolls and keyboard warriors trying to denigrate your brand, you will typically find that those individuals are few and far between.

Assuming that your posts are relevant and valuable, you will find that plenty of the audience members who engage with your post are eager and easy to capture leads.

And at the very least you can use the comments to get a new follower and put them in the “incubator” for conversion at a later time.

A Brief Word on Snapchat

Some of the more astute readers have probably noticed that Snapchat has thus far been excluded from this list.

And at this point, you might be wondering why?

To put it simply, Snapchat is not a platform that is conducive to lead generation in any way, shape, or form.

If you are looking to make rapid sales by offering limited time offers or similar promotions, Snapchat is perfect.

But if you are looking to organically grow your email/lead list through social media then Snapchat is a highly ineffective platform (today).

While I am sure the team over at Snapchat will release updates in the coming months and years to allow for more effective lead generation, for the time being, there is really no viable way to leverage this platform.

However, if you are interested in how you can use Snapchat to grow your brand and your revenue, then you can check out my definitive guide on the subject “Snapchat Marketing: The Ultimate Guide to Grow Your Business in 10 Second Clips“.


In the modern world of pay to play marketing, generating leads without a significant budget is hard work.

But it is doable.

If you are willing to implement the steps that I have detailed above, I promise that you will be able to generate more leads than you ever thought possible without spending a dime in advertising.

But it will take time and it will take a lot of effort.

So get your hustle on and go generate some leads.

Do you have any questions about free social media lead generation that I didn’t answer? Have you found any tactics or techniques that have worked for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Author: Sam Oh
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