Did you know there are more than 1.9 billion active social media users in the world today? That accounts for more than 27% of the world population!

In the United States, the number of active social media users is expected to increase 11% from 172 million in 2014 to 191 billion in 2018.

With such profound growth predicted for the future, you may be asking how exactly can your company tap into this massive and rapidly expanding online market?

The answer: Lead Generation.

Here are seven top resources within social media to keep in mind for your business.

1. Run a sweepstakes

No matter the social media platform, there is a way that your business can implement a type of sweepstakes or contest for your followers. Setting up a contest is the key to achieving one, major goal: to create user involvement on a social media page. With user involvement, your company can build excitement around the brand, learn more about what the customers are looking for and count on them to share your company posts or pages with their friends. In the end, running a sweepstakes can be the first step to increasing reach and, consequently, targeted lead generation.

2. Create special offers

Coupons posted on social media promote sharing, impulse buying and an increase in customer engagement. Discounts can be an effective tool for enticing a new customer to purchase their first product from your company or a way to maintain an existing customer base. No matter the customer target in mind, online discounting is convenient, easy for customers to take advantage of and a simple way for a company to increase leads online.

3. Include an email-gated landing page

We have all seen the webpages that require you to provide an email address before viewing the content and, the truth is, it can be a great technique for businesses to utilize. By obtaining an email address, the company has more opportunities to inform customers about content posted on social media, upcoming webinars or new releases. It is extremely effective to include email-gated content as part of your regularly scheduled content on social media.

4. Use Twitter Lead Generation Cards

Although they have received mixed reviews from many companies, these lead generation cards are built precisely to generate leads for your company. They help to collect email addresses in the same way that website landing pages do, providing your business with similar benefits.

5. Provide meaningful content

Content is king when it comes to social media. When customers are interested in the content that your business posts, they are more likely to click on it, share it with friends and, ultimately, make a purchase. Pay special attention to the type of content that your customers enjoy so you can be sure to tailor it to those wishes in the future.

6. Focus on your customers

As mentioned earlier, customer involvement is one of the major keys to lead generation. Once engagement is achieved, customers will feel comfortable tagging your company in a photo on Instagram or publishing a status update about your brand. Take a moment to share these customer posts on your page. You’ll earn the reputation of a cool, responsive company who pays attention to its customers, which will ultimately result in an extremely strong brand image.

7. Use captivating images

Every piece of content posted on social media should be accompanied by a captivating image. Social media is transforming into a primarily visual media source, proven by the growth of YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram. In fact, users are more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures than any other [type] of media,” according to a 2013 study. Take the time to find an image to link with each piece of content and your lead generations are sure to increase.

According to a 2014 Global Digital Statistics study, Facebook was the most proficient online lead generator for B2C businesses among the social media platforms, creating more than 1.18 million leads. For B2B businesses, however, LinkedIn was found to be 277% more effective than Twitter and Facebook. While these may be the most useful platforms for B2C and B2B companies, it can helpful to supplement with a company presence on other social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, according to your company’s needs.

With this information in mind, it’s time for you to choose the platform and resource most suited to your business to start generating those high quality leads!

This post was contributed by Deanna Ayres, the SEM Strategist and Community Outreach Supervisorat The Marketing Zen Group. She loves to come up with new content strategies for and with her team and believes that connecting on a personal level is vital to success. Growing up in Europe has allowed her a unique insight into cultural differences in business & marketing. In her spare time she is a photographer, hobby cook with a love for coffee, gamer and geek.