(note: this article is also available in our Customer Service Center)

Using Twitter to generate leads and meet sales prospects isn’t hard, but takes a bit of practice.  

Since launching NeedTagger in 2012, we’ve helped thousands of businesses find and connect with new customers on Twitter.  Along the way, we’ve learned a few things about the right and wrong ways to use Twitter as a customer acquisition channel.

This post summarizes the top 10 best practices (in our opinion) and provides links to examples and other resources that should save you time and help you get better results.

Happy prospecting!

1. Respect the 3 Golden Rules of Social Prospecting, which are:

  • be your authentic, awesome self at all times
  • share helpful information as often as possible
  • don’t sell too much.

Regarding selling too much: offering coupons and deals does work for some product and service categories – as long as the “buying signal” is obvious and strong.

When broadcasting information from your account, don’t send more than a small handful of Call To Action (CTA) messages per day.  CTA messages are posts to a person that directly incite purchasing action from him/her. If you post CTAs more frequently than a few times a day, then your regular followers may view you as spammy.

For all other new business opportunities you find on Twitter, your best strategy is to engage with your prospect as if you just met her at a dinner party or a public event.  That means you should: be friendly; don’t hard-sell; be helpful if you can; share your business card (follow them), and compliment them if you sincerely like what they said (retweet them).

2. Create special-purpose customer prospecting streams for your business

If you want to minimize the amount of time you spend hunting for leads, then you need to learn how to filter Twitter for the types of opportunities you are looking for.

There are many different types of prospecting streams you might setup to mine social media for potential customers.  Some examples include:

  • People explicitly seeking your type of product or service
  • People requesting help and information to solve problems that your company/products/services solve every day
  • People complaining about your competitors’ brands, products and people by name
  • People of a certain job title and/or work for a particular company discussing topics relevant to your business

Depending on how you organize your sales and marketing efforts, you may want to create multiple geo-targeted streams for each of the above, or create one stream for each product family you offer, etc.

So how does one create a “prospecting stream”?

Use the right tools.

Many leading social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite (free version), SproutSocial (free to try), ViralHeat (paid), and SalesForce MarketingCloud (paid) let you to set up persistent keyword-filtered streams that constantly search Twitter for posts containing the keywords that matter to your business.  Some offer location search, as well.

You can also use Twitter Advanced Search or SocialMention, although in our experience these tools don’t give you the best coverage and limit you with respect to location and profile search.

Unfortunately, keyword-filtered streams often suffer from “noise overload”. In other words, the vast majority of posts found are not relevant leads.  This wastes time and leads to missed opportunities.  It’s a big reason a lot of people give up on sales prospecting on Twitter.

The solution is to step up to more advanced “intent-mining” tools like NeedTagger.  Our tool was developed specifically for customer prospecting and uses profile-matching and natural language processing technologies to identify more opportunities and to filter-out spam and noise.  In addition to keyword search, we look for the right types of people in your market who are expressing needs related to your type of business.

This tutorial shows how NeedTagger works. 

The key benefits of intent-marketing tools are:

  1. they save you time, because they filter-out a lot of noise and spam from your prospecting streams; and,
  2. they uncover new business opportunities that keyword-based tools will miss (like implied needs)

We offer a free version of NeedTagger that you can play with, to see what it might do for you.

3. Follow first!

Start every day by scanning your streams and following as many likely customer prospects as you can.

If you use NeedTagger, you can quickly scan each stream and tag potential prospects, then use the “filter by tag” option to get your work queue setup.  Then, follow everyone on your list.  If you want to reach out to them, re-use saved messages and landing page links to speed your outreach.

You should follow prospects even if they are not an immediate sales lead. If they are obviously interested in and discussing your type of product/service, then follow them. Half of them may follow you back.

The reason you want to start your day following potential customers is simple:  if potential customers choose to follow your Twitter account, then you will be able to market to them for FREE on a long term basis.  In addition, you will be able to direct message these prospects with custom offers and use direct messages to answer to sensitive questions not appropriate for public display.

Here are a few things to be careful about when following people on Twitter:

  • Don’t un-follow lots of people right after following them (for example, if they don’t immediately return the favor).  Twitter doesn’t like this behavior and may ban your account for spamming practices.
  • Watch your follower-to-following ratio.  Some people and software tools view a person who follows many more people than follows them a spammer or a low-quality follower.  This is certainly not always true and it won’t get you banned.

4. Master your introductions. Then re-use the introductions that work.

After you use an intent-marketing tool like NeedTagger for a while, you will notice that a small handful of issues/questions/complaints keep repeating themselves over and over again in your streams, even though they are coming from different people. People are people, after all.

The repeating nature of social intent presents an opportunity to streamline your social prospecting by re-using the intros that work best for each situation, your content and your style.  In other words, there’s no need to custom-craft every outreach message.

To save time, you can save your best messages in NeedTagger (or tools like HootSuite) and reuse them.

Here are a few resources we put together for our customers that will help you make a great first impression:

5. Types of messages you should respond to:

  • People talking about you, your products and your people.  Make sure you include these as keywords in your stream definition.
  • People using a hashtag you invented for your own business or marketing campaign
  • People expressing clear intent or interest in the types of products and services you provide.
  • People asking questions about problems you can help them solve.

6. Types of messages you should not respond to:

  • People talking about unrelated topics
  • People using widely popular hashtags
  • People located where your service is unavailable

7. Use caution when:

  • Two @names are in the message:  this usually means you are interrupting a conversation.
  • People are expressing extreme unhappiness, distress, or anger.  Unless you are truly resolving the root cause of their emotion, you may be entering into an argument.

8. After you send a message, monitor for reactions & replies 

  • Continue the conversation when you get responses, even negative ones. People want to know you’re there.
  • Only use accounts that are actively managed by you or your social media team.
  • Keep your opt-outs obvious and easy

9. Master your use of the @ symbol when formatting messages to send to prospects, as follows:

  • Begin your outreach message with the target’s @name to send it to your target.  Everyone who follows your account will see it, too.
  • Place your target’s @name in the middle of the post so their followers will see it, too.

10. When sending an unsolicited message to someone on Twitter:

  • Be transparent about why you’re responding to them and who you are
  • Provide some value to the recipient in your tweet
  • Use a single Twitter account in your response.
  • Don’t ever use hashtags, marketing slogans or hard sales pitches
  • In the UK, Twitter usage requires having “(ad)” in your copy



We hope this list helps your sales prospecting efforts.  Best of luck!

How Many B2B Leads Can You Get From Twitter?
Did you know? The killer whale is the world's largest dolphin.

How many leads could your company get from Twitter, if you focused on it as a channel?

In this post we offer examples, facts and figures that will help you frame the size of the Twitter lead generation opportunity for your business.

Regardless of your type of business or market size, it is likely that every day there are at least a handful of new customer engagement opportunities waiting for you on the world’s largest public social network.

Whether you can turn these moments of opportunity into high-quality leads is up to you. But it might help you to know that many of our 2,500 customers have been successful landing new customers from Twitter.  Check out our Pinterest Gallery of Satisfied  customers for a few examples.

flipboard 86174v5-max-250x250

 For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

Twitter’s Role in B2B Selling and Lead Gen

Most B2B marketers agree that Twitter adds SOME value in sales and lead generation, but opinions differ widely regarding what that value is.

Some say Twitter’s value is limited to sharing content and news to attract an audience. Others say it’s great for monitoring your competition. A few even claim you can generate a sale with a single tweet (that’s not been our experience, for what it’s worth).

It is clear that for some B2B organizations, Twitter has proven itself a valuable source of leads.

For example, Marketo uses Twitter Promoted Tweets to generate leads at a fraction of the cost of other social channels.

We believe Twitter’s highest-value role in B2B marketing is in the front-end of the selling process, i.e., social prospecting and lead nurturing.

In our experience, Twitter has proven itself an ideal channel for handling the following activities:

  • identifying in-market prospects (by monitoring for people sharing specific needs & issues you can address)
  • warming new leads
  • establishing yourself as a respected thought leader and problem-solver in your field 
  • driving highly qualified traffic to your website
  • compressing the sales cycle by tackling the most common questions and issues that stand between you and the deal
  • measuring the impact of your content marketing, lead generation and outreach activities.

The scale of Twitter’s B2B lead generation opportunity is also misunderstood: it’s probably a lot larger than you think.

A question we often get from B2B sales & marketing professionals is,

how many NEW customer engagement opportunities exist on Twitter – for a company like mine?

The quickest way to answer this question is to search for people expressing needs related to your business, right now.

But if we take a step back and look at Twitter as a whole, the scale of the B2B lead generation opportunity on Twitter is very large – and poised to grow many times over.

200 Million Unmet Needs (Last Month)

Since early 2012, we’ve been monitoring Twitter for 14 types of tweets that contain commercially-relevant intent (see chart below).

We call these special intent-laden tweets, “needs”.

Our best estimate is that about 3-5% of tweets represent commercially relevant needs.

By “commercially relevant”, we mean that an average sales, customer support or marketing professional would classify the tweet and the person as worthy of further monitoring or worthy of taking some sort of action such as: following, retweeting, sending an outreach message, etc.

In March, 2013, we identified more than 200 million opportunities to engage with people around moments of need. The chart below shows how they break down by type of need.

Note that we aren’t yet mining every possible type of need. Further, we only identify English language opportunities.

14 Types of Commercial Intent on Twitter by NeedTagger (estimated)

14 Types of Commercial Intent on Twitter by NeedTagger (estimated)

In addition to the Types of Needs above, we also mine Twitter for people discussing important Life Events, Trigger Events and more than 60 common household and business purchases.

Specific B2B Examples

So let’s now dive into the industry view of these needs.

Listed in the chart below are a few of the pre-tested sales prospecting filters we offer for B2B customers today.

The stream volumes below identify explicit buying signals – they do not find tweets containing other forms of intent, such as people asking questions, complaining, offering opinions, etc.

B2B opportunities available on Twitter (sample)

B2B opportunities available on Twitter (sample)

As you can see, the volume of B2B needs expressed on Twitter is large enough to interest most B2B social selling professionals.

Keep in mind that only about 16% of the US population uses Twitter today, and the number of active users and number of tweets posted each day is increasing rapidly.

The list above represents a small slice of the opportunities we’ve identified for our B2B customers, because the majority of our users don’t use pre-tested streams – they build custom-filtered streams for their business using our self-service apps.

Here are a few examples of B2B prospecting streams created by our users:

B2B Leads - NeedTagger customer streams (examples)

B2B Leads – NeedTagger customer streams (examples)

It is important to note that the vast majority of commercial needs expressed on Twitter each day are overlooked by most businesses.

This is partially because Twitter is young, but it’s also because even socially-savvy business professionals believe Twitter is too noisy to get any business value from it – other than following the news. 

LinkedIn Is the King of B2B Social Selling

LinkedIn is widely considered the king of social prospecting for most B2B industries today and for good reason: professional networking is the best means of getting introduced to a potential client or customer for most B2B companies.

In addition, the conversion rate of traffic sourced from LinkedIn seems to be higher than other networks.  A recent Hubspot study revealed that LinkedIn traffic converts 277% better than Twitter.

Hubspot conversion rate survey 2012

Hubspot conversion rate survey 2012

But… You Can’t Connect With Everyone

That said, the reality is that most of your socially-active sales prospects are not directly connected to you on any private social network like LinkedIn. Most never will be (is our guess).

This may sound hard to believe, but do the math for your LinkedIn account right now:

  • how many companies and sales prospects (people) likely exist on LinkedIn for your business/market?  
  • how many of them are directly connected to your account right now?

If you are connected directly to more than 10% of your potential buyers on LinkedIn, then you are way ahead of most.

90 pct dont follow you online

 

The other shortcoming of LinkedIn is its limited use: the vast majority of people do not visit LinkedIn every day.  Many don’t check it weekly.

Why Twitter Is the ‘Queen’ of Social Selling

If LinkedIn is your social selling rolodex, then Twitter is your 24-7 business conference.

Twitter users are more active than LinkedIn users. Active Twitter users check their streams several times a day, and heavy users post every hour. This means that if your prospect uses Twitter, then you have more opportunities to engage with him or her.

Twitter is also much more open, and thus easier to mine for opportunities.  Did you know that over 70% of the world’s publicly-searchable user generated content is posted on Twitter?  The other 30% includes Facebook, LinkedIn, blog posts, discussion forums – you name it.

Taken together, Facebook and LinkedIn contain more user-generated content, but the vast majority of it is not available to you (unless you pay for ads – maybe).  Only a small number of conversations & posts on FB and LI are publicly available for prospecting – and reaching out to people you don’t know is not standard protocol.

This means that Twitter is an ideal place for connecting with people who don’t know you yet – and with people who won’t connect with you anywhere else.  And, as we pointed out earlier, unconnected prospects probably make up 90% of your potential market.

The obvious advantage of using Twitter to generate B2B leads is VOLUME: more opportunities exist to connect with a given prospect each day.

The primary challenge to using Twitter for B2B leads is TIME:  no one can afford to spend all day monitoring busy Twitter streams for opportunities.

The best way to maximize your limited time on Twitter is to quickly identify the tweets and people that matter the most to your business – by filtering-out all of the spam, news and noise that does nothing to drive your business forward.

This is where an intent-marketing tool like NeedTagger can really help.

How We Can Help

NeedTagger helps marketers sift through the noise of Twitter to identify meaningful customer engagement opportunities for their business. We help you find and connect with people who actually need your content, products, services and assistance right now.

 

 

How To Connect With People

One of your basic objectives as a social sales person should be to establish yourself as a trusted resource and a subject matter expert to your market.  You need to be viewed as a helpful professional whom your prospects and customers can rely on throughout their buying journey.

The following infographic outlines the human communication behaviors that instill trust in other people.

These are useful behaviors to learn, whether communicating online or off.

The list was developed for entrepreneurs but applies equally well to sales and marketing professionals.

For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling" For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

The 3 biggest challenges to social prospecting and how to overcome them
Did you know? The maximum age for bottlenose dolphins is between 40 and 50 years.

After helping over 2,000 social selling professionals connect with new prospects on Twitter, we’ve learned there are three challenges most first-time “social prospectors” will face.

The challenges we see professionals struggle with when prospecting customers on Twitter include:

  1. not being clear about who you want to connect with (and why)

  2. not knowing what to say to a new prospect, and,

  3. how to identify new prospects quickly and efficiently.

In this post, we address these three challenges and offer ways to overcome these hurdles. Our expertise is in monitoring conversations on public social networks for leads, so in this post we’ll focus mostly on Twitter as a source of prospects.

We also provide an example from our own social prospecting efforts (last night), to give you a feel for how natural this type of prospecting can be.

For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling" For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

Challenge #1:  who am I trying to meet?

Before attempting to search for potential prospects on Twitter, we strongly recommend that you write-down your prospecting objective in a statement that describes the people you want to connect to.  Use a format similar to this:

People X who need/want/complain about topic Y.

For example, here is one of our social prospecting objectives:

Social selling professionals with Twitter experience who need tools to help them find new prospects.

A lot of new social prospectors struggle to come up with a statement like that. Partially because it immediately begs the following question:

Challenge #2:  what will I say when I find them?

Ah, yes – the introduction. The bane of all prospecting. What do you say?

This second question is where the greatest number of new NeedTagger users get hung up. There are a number of practical reasons for their reluctance, including:

  1. fear of being seen as a spammer: this fear, while very common, is greatly overblown for professionals who sincerely seek to help people solve problems (as opposed to sending coupons, useless landing pages and irrelevant links). If you answer the right questions from the right people, you will not be viewed as a spammer.  That said, if you have any doubt at all about how someone might respond to your message, then engage less directly, i.e., follow them, retweet them or list them.

  2. lack of content: you don’t have the right links/content to share, so traffic generation seems impossible. Solution: place your landing page URL or your company’s URL in your profile, as a default way of generating traffic.

  3. lack of solution-selling knowledge or expertise: you simply aren’t the right person to talk with customers about issues. We see this a lot. For example, marketing specialists aren’t always skilled at selling or answering questions.  Solution: give your sales force the tools they need to prospect directly.
  4. inexperience with Twitter:  you don’t know what to say on Twitter (in general).  That’s OK, Twitter is still a new experience for most. The only solution is time – it takes a few weeks to a few months to become skilled at using Twitter naturally. Give yourself this break-in time before pushing for prospects.

  5. lack of incentive: you are not tasked to generate new contacts, sales or leads. We see this a lot, too. Again, marketing professionals are often not motivated or told to generate leads or to identify prospects. Very often, their job is to share content (broadcast it) and to generate followers and likes.  NOT the same thing, of course. Solution: give your sales force the tools they need.  Or, train a person or two on your social marketing team to answer questions and to forward posts on to the right sales people.

Being prepared with content, putting the right person on the account, and having the right incentives are issues that any company can address. The rest are personal learning curves.

To help our new users learn what to say, we’ve put together a few online resources:

From a social gesture point of view, Twitter offers most of the selling gestures you might use at a real world conference.  You can share your business card (follow them), agree to talk privately later on (follow each other, then direct message), compliment their words (retweet), answer their question (share a link) and offer advice (reply).

Of course, Twitter offers several advantages over “real world” conferences:

  • by using the right search tools, you can hear/see ALL of the conversations that matter to your business, in real time.
  • you can respond directly with content suited for their need (see below)
  • you can track results and focus on what works.

The content-sharing advantage of Twitter makes it really powerful as a prospecting platform. Because you can share digital content (not just a handshake), you can meet a lot more needs on Twitter than you might during a face-to-face encounter.

Consider the following ideas:

Which leads us to the third challenge: getting your Twitter prospecting streams set up correctly, so you don’t waste hours monitoring noisy streams.

Challenge #3:  how do I find new prospects (without spending all day on Twitter)?

Given Twitter’s relatively low penetration into our society (so far), a social selling professional probably shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes to an hour each day on Twitter.

This means you need some way to avoid monitoring noisy, high-volume streams all day. The ideal solution is to monitor a low-volume stream of high-quality prospects.  

This is where an intent-mining tool like NeedTagger can really help, because keyword-filtered streams are often too noisy (too many irrelevant posts) or too lossy (miss too many opportunities).

The video below explains how to set up three different kinds of prospecting streams on NeedTagger.

You can find more detailed instructions here: http://www.needtagger.com/2nd-home/how-to-use-needtagger/

 

As you can see, NeedTagger works a little differently than your typical keyword search tool.  We added the concept of “intent” (conversation type) to your search. But filtering by intent makes all the difference.

Still, NeedTagger is easy to master – for those who are ready.

Prospecting on Twitter – An Example

Sales and marketing professionals who’ve mastered social prospecting know first-hand that people on Twitter are actually very receptive to “stranger-experts” stepping-in to help them. This makes sense, as one of the biggest reasons people join Twitter is to find information and connect with new people they can learn from.

Compared with broadcasting content from your account, targeted social prospecting is an order of magnitude more effective in terms of generating useful leads. Our active customers generate 5%-80% click through rates (CTR) on messages sent from NeedTagger.  A typical result is 20-30% CTR.

For example, here is a new connection we made with a prospect – last night:

I found Ron’s post in our NeedTagger stream Sunday night – it was a day old (hey, it was Sunday):

opportunity

I first checked Ron’s profile out on Twitter – he seemed like a good fit for us: an active/experienced Twitter user, in the right line of work.

Note the LinkedIn URL in his profile. That was helpful.

profile lookup

So I reached out and suggested Ron try our tool (see my message below).

I sent the following outreach from our corporate account.

It’s usually better to initiate a relationships from a personal account, but for this type of opportunity our company account works fine.

outreach sent response generated

 

Regarding the outreach message itself: notice the lack of a link in my message to Ron.

This prompted Ron to check out our profile.

This is a softer, more respectful way to introduce your business to someone – versus sending them a link.

landing page

As you can see, this is a natural way to start a relationship with potential customers on Twitter.

In our case, 100% of our new business has come from organic search, personal networking, partner referrals and social selling.

NeedTagger surfaces the most valuable and actionable engagement opportunities for your business on Twitter. It’s FREE to try – just click the blue button above to start connecting with prospects on Twitter.