Spending a lot of time recruiting influencers, gathering likes and attracting followers?   If you’re like most companies, you’re probably connected to at most 10% of your addressable market on any social network.

This begs the question,

What if most of your market never follows you in social media? How will you generate sales and leads, then?

The facts tell us it may take a long time before a large portion of your market follows you on Facebook or Twitter – if ever.  And if they don’t follow you on Facebook or Twitter, exactly what is your plan to generate sales and leads from those networks?  Display ads?

For proof, consider the chart below which lists the number of Twitter followers for several leading brands and compares this to their total addressable market on Twitter (as of Feb 2012):

(NOTE: the first percentage represents the share of US population considered to be a target market for that company; the second percentage (15%) represents the share of US population that uses Twitter today.  We multiplied 300 million people times these percentages to calculate an estimated size of their addressable market on Twitter).

Some of these companies have been heavy Twitter users and marketers for three or four years now.  In spite of this, less than 10% of their addressable market that currently uses Twitter is actually following them there.

You might say, sure, but you are ignoring the “viral” effects of sharing content in a social network.  Well, considering that the typical tweet generates less than 1% engagement (promoted tweets are a bit higher), “content sharing” may not be the most reliable way to generate leads and sales over the long run.


Current Outreach Methods May Never Scale

A major reason brands cannot connect with more of their market in social media is because we all rely upon “follow-me, search-me” mechanisms to connect with each other in social networks.  For example,

  • If I am a merchant who wants to connect with new customers, then I have to search for them or somehow persuade them to follow me.
  • If I’m a consumer who needs something right now, then I have to search for a merchant to provide it or follow them to receive offers and announcements.

All of this searching and following takes time, energy and attention, which no one has a surplus of today. On smart phones, there is even less attention to go around (watching out for cars consumes a lot of my attention, for example).

Due to the sheer amount of work required to search and follow so many people (and to post interesting content to get them to follow you), today’s mechanisms may never connect us with a decent share of our addressable market.

More importantly, as we spend all of this time trying to be the most interesting brand online, how much genuine demand is being overlooked right now?

There is ample evidence that many millions of people declare their needs, complaints and opinions in social media every day.  At NeedTagger, we call these expressions of need, “latent demand”.  We track this demand in 12 industries today.


Why Are We Doing This Again?

We sometimes forget that regardless of where we do our marketing, we are chasing the same two outcomes:

  1. connecting with and engaging new customers in order to create awareness and brand preference, and
  2. influencing purchasing behavior to generate leads and to close new business.

Unfortunately, the methods that most companies use to reach people in social media today – recruiting followers, attracting likes and buying display ads – have not proven effective at accomplishing the second goal, generating sales and leads.

When polled, consumers always express a strong desire for companies to listen and respond to them.  Yet most companies aren’t listening and responding to market demand in social media.  Only 47% of B2B companies monitor social media for mentions of any kind, and more than half of tweets directed at Top 25 retailers by consumers are ignored completely.

To be fair, at least a few thousand companies are using sophisticated “social listening” tools like Radian6 and Attensity to analyze conversations for many things, to route messages to customer service desks and to develop detailed profiles of their customers and followers to share with CRM systems.  But more often than not, the analytics side of these applications receive much more time and attention than the engagement and action sides do.

Or perhaps even after listening carefully, the truth is that many brands don’t want to know why people follow them in the first place.  An IBM study in 2010 showed pretty conclusively that brands do not, in fact, understand the top reasons this occurs (see below).


Bottom line, most companies are working tirelessly to broadcast content through other people… while ignoring the people who need their help right now.

What we have here, folks, is a failure to communicate – in social media!

Which is brings us to why we created NeedTagger.


What If Searching and Following Wasn’t Required?

Most technology companies start off with the question, “What if?”.  Our company started with two:

What if everyone who expressed their needs in public would immediately be rewarded by multiple offers of help, without lifting a finger?  

What if merchants could know about and respond to everyone who declared a need related to their business, so they could reach out and help them?

A bit too Pollyannish?  Maybe.  But connecting customers with merchants around authentic moments of need seems to be a really good use of public social networks like Twitter.  If this can be done correctly and remain respectful of personal privacy, we believe there is a ton of value for the merchant, for the consumer and for the network provider (Twitter).

This could really change the way people and companies connect with each other, we thought.  Worthy of starting a company.

In 2011, we felt so strongly about the size of this “latent demand” opportunity that we formed a team to focus on closing the gap, starting on the merchant/brand side of the connection.

Our initial goal was to create a platform that would make it super-easy for organizations to reach potential customers who don’t follow them on social networks yet, but may nevertheless benefit from their assistance, content, products or services.   We called our method, “outreach marketing”, because the goal is to make it easy to reach out and help someone – but not to trick them (i.e., spam).  We have a strict anti-spam policy, by the way.


A More Direct Way To Reach Your Market

Instead of helping businesses recruit influencers, we constructed a tool that identifies people who need something very specific and makes it easy for merchants and brands to reach out and help those people – in real time.

NeedTagger uses natural language filters and other methods to detect naturally-occurring expressions of need (“I’m hungry for Thai food”) and present those opportunities in real time to merchants who can help (“We’ve got the best Pad Thai in town – 3 blocks from your location: bit.ly/hdk5td”).

It’s a simple concept and a simple tool.  While powerful, our “need detection” technology is quite different than most text analytics (NLP) and machine learning-based tools.  We designed it specifically to scale efficiently, to detect needs with extreme precision, to make it easy to customize for a single customer’s needs, and to detect needs in real time.

Four weeks into our public beta, we are detecting several hundred thousand to a million people each day who may need something from our customers.  We present these opportunities to our customers within a few seconds of the original post.  Our customers engage with their filtered streams to generate leads, to drive traffic, to start conversations and to build a social footprint made of people who actually might need their stuff – instead of self-promoters, social media gurus and newsbots.

We are currently working to integrate our tool with leading consumer apps, Social CRM tools, marketing automation suites and social media monitoring platforms.

We are just getting started, so stay tuned.
Can you think of a larger untapped business opportunity in social media marketing than connecting your business to people who may need you, right now?