10 Ways To Introduce Yourself to a Prospect On Twitter
Did you know? Dolphin teeth are used for grasping, not chewing. They have no jaw muscles for chewing.

10 Ways To Introduce Yourself to a Prospect On Twitter

It can be awkward to introduce yourself to a prospective customer on Twitter. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

On Twitter, millions of people ask for help and advice every day. That’s why Twitter is such a great place to meet new customers.

But Twitter isn’t like LinkedIn, where you connect through people you know. 

Twitter functions more like a big business convention, where you share common interests with thousands of people attending the show, but you don’t know most of them. And you aren’t connected with most of them professionally (yet).

Like a big convention, there’s a lot of noise on Twitter. And way too many people to talk to.

So how do you prospect on Twitter?

Well, first you need to find the few good prospects to connect with. This is where search tools like NeedTagger, HootSuite and Twitter Advanced Search can help.

After you find them, introducing yourself is the next step. That’s what this post is about.

But there’s a lot of room for misunderstanding in a 140-character message. You need to be careful, too. Twitter may suspend your account if you violate their Rules

Since launching NeedTagger in 2012, we’ve helped more than 5,000 business owners, sales executives and marketing professionals  introduce themselves to sales prospects on Twitter.  

The good news is that according to our customers, customer prospecting on Twitter really works.

In this post, we share some of the best and worst types of introductions we’ve seen so far.

No, go out there and make a great first impression!

For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling" For more articles like this, join 10,000 social selling professionals on our Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

10 Low-Risk Ways to Introduce Yourself

There are at least 10 proven ways to introduce yourself to prospect on Twitter.  As you will see, all are similar to the types of introductions you use today, just adapted for Twitter.

Some of the techniques we’ve seen work well include the following:

1. Ask for their opinion

People love to be asked for their opinion, especially if the request comes from an expert.

The types of questions that make great conversation-starters include:

  • “Which would you chooose, A or B?”
  • “Where can I learn more?”
  • “What do you think about X?”
  • “Where did you find that?”

This method usually solicits a live conversation. If you find an opportunity like this, jump on it.

2. Share a link to helpful content

Discovering new content is why many people use Twitter.

If you or your company have created or shared content that might help someone solve a problem, then by all means share it one-on-one with them!

This is one of the best ways to prospect on Twitter.

If you can share you own company’s white paper, video or presentation, then send a link to your company’s lead generation landing page – but tell them this in your tweet, “short signup req’d”.

Another, newer method is to use Twitter’s new Lead Generation Cards (paid ads) to capture contact information without asking them to leave Twitter.

3. Offer your advice

If you don’t have a link to share but can offer a quick answer or piece of advice that could help, then send it. You might be surprised at how grateful people can be on Twitter.

4. Follow them

Following someone is the simplest, lowest-risk way to connect with a prospect on Twitter. It’s the online equivalent of sharing your business card. So make sure your profile includes a way to contact you.

5. Retweet or Favorite their message

This is another low-risk way to engage with a person on Twitter. At the very least, re-tweeting or favoriting a message shows that you share a common interest. Most of the time she will notice your interest, and sometimes she will thank you. There are no technical limits on the number of people you can retweet or favorite each day. However, if you have a large number of active and engaged followers, then you should limit your retweeting to to 20%-30% of your daily posts, or people may start unfollowing you due to a lack of original content.

6. Forward their post to someone who can help

If you know someone else on Twitter who might be able to answer a question or deal with an issue, then by all means forward their message on to that person with a quick “(hope this helps)”.

7. Agree with them

Look for statements that you honestly agree with, then give the author a “high five” by declaring your support for their position.

People love to hear others say, “Exactly!”, “That’s what I thought!” and “You nailed it!”.

But don’t fake it, because you might be asked, “Really? exactly what did you like?”.

8. Correct a factual error

If you see someone post an inaccurate statement or a misconception about your company, don’t argue! But feel free to correct the inaccuracy with facts (preferably in the form of a third-party link). Most people respect a company that listens to and respond to people who talk about their brand.

But never argue in public, it’s always a bad idea.

9. Compliment them (honestly)

This is another no-brainer. People love an honest compliment.

Just make sure you are talking about something that you actually liked, or your compliment could backfire.

10. Address her correctly (using @name)

This one is  important.

A lot of people don’t know how to use the @name address correctly on Twitter.

When you begin your tweet with a prospect’s @name, it tells Twitter that only your prospect and your followers should see your tweet.

If you place their @name anywhere else in your tweet, then ALL of your prospect’s followers will see your targeted message, too. This simple mistake can lead to an embarrassing situation – especially when you are trying to help someone resolve a “sensitive” issue.

For real-world examples of these methods in action, check out our Pinterest Gallery.

pinterest gallery of marketers connecting with sales prospects on Twitter

NeedTagger’s Pinterest Board of Customer Examples

5 Ways to Make a Bad First Impression – And Get Your Account Suspended

Social feaux pas like the ones listed below will cause you to lose followers and might even get your Twitter account suspended. So whatever you do, avoid making these mistakes:

1. Automate Your Introduction

We all use some automation in social media. But if you care about making a great first impression, then you need to tailor your first message to your prospect’s unique issues, situation, location and language. Automating your introductions can also get your Twitter account suspended or permanently banned.

There are two ways this can happen:

  1. You may be flagged by your prospects. Most people can smell a bot from a mile away. If too many people flag you as a spammer, your account will be suspended. Twitter doesn’t provide information about who blocked you or how many people flagged, etc.  You just get suspended.
  2. Twitter may flag your account for violating their Terms of Service. The only acceptable way to automate introductions on Twitter is to pay Twitter for advertising (Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts, et al).  If you use any other service to automatically follow, favorite or send messages to people you don’t know, then you are violating Twitter’s Terms of Service and your account can be suspended, ghost-banned (hidden from search) or banned forever. Twitter continues to crack-down on providers and users of these services.

Caveat emptor.

2. Send an Unsolicited Commercial Offer

There are some exceptions to this (like offering a coupon to a hungry restaurant seeker), but for the most part people don’t like unsolicited offers interrupting their conversations.

3. Brag Excessively

Does this really need explaining? Focus the vast majority of your personal social time on finding problems and on sharing solutions – not on explicit marketing and advertising. That said, it’s totally fine (and smart) to post 1 or 2 messages a day from your account informing people of a new product, blog post or even a special deal.

4. Criticize Your Competitor

Unlike politics, in business attacking your competition won’t get you anywhere – especially in a court of public opinion like Twitter. In fact, you might want to consider complimenting your competitors when they deserve it (just released a new cool feature/product, did something important for a customer, shared a valuable insight, etc.)

Not to brag or anything, but this is something we like to do from our @needtagger corporate account. We think it’s important that our customers know about the state of the art in social customer prospecting – even if we aren’t the ones leading the charge on that particular day.

5. Send Them a Link to a Signup Form and Describe it as “the help you’re looking for”

This leaves a bad impression, to say the least. It’s amazing to me how many marketers think this practice is OK.

Look, if you are going to send me to content that will help me, then when I land on your page I should see that content (or at least a useful portion of it). If you are going to send me to a form first, then tell me this upfront (“short signup req’d”).

It’s all about being honest and respecting the other person’s time.

You, too, can leverage Twitter to build a low-cost network of prospective customers – as long as you know how to make a good first impression.  We hope these tips will help you achieve that.

We are interested in your experiences – leave your comments below!

NeedTagger helps you find sales prospects on Twitter in minutes a day.  Try it now – for FREE.

 

 

When marketing in social media, try making serendipity your goal – instead of clicks, likes, followers or leads.  

When Did ‘Social’ Become ‘Media’?

I’m certainly not the first person to point this out, but it bears repeating:

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn weren’t designed to be media properties.

They were actually designed as a modern replacement for old-school social networking platforms like bulletin boards, discussion forums, Usenet, and IRC chat.

That is, their primary function is to help people connect and engage with each other, to interact, to learn, to entertain and to socialize – not to browse through professionally-produced media (or ads).

We’re Doing This Wrong

But that’s not how most companies treat social “media” today, is it?

With few exceptions, the tactics we use to reach customers on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are just adaptations of broadcast advertising methods designed for mass media.

For example:

  • display ads are replacing the newspaper and magazine ads of the 70’s
  • viral videos are assuming the role that sitcoms played in the 80’s
  • Facebook pages are substituting for websites developed in the 90’s
  • recruiting and renting ‘influencers’ is just a form of online affiliate marketing, developed in the 2000’s

The vast majority of “impressions” that reach people on Facebook and Twitter today are still the same-old “shout at me” display ad variety. Or worse, they are meaningless time wasters – like this experiment that went off the rails:

Coca Cola Australia’s social experiment goes flat

 

My point is that the marketing methods we use in social media haven’t changed all that much – but they really need to, if we want to leverage the communication power of these networks to their full advantage.

But if mass media-style marketing isn’t gonna drive traffic and sales, then what’s a marketer to do?

Should we borrow the old-school tactics used to market stuff on bulletin boards, discussion forums and IRC?

Well, YES – that would be GREAT place to start.

 

Learn from the Pros

Forum marketers know how to generate new business from social media.  It’s worth taking a few notes on how they do it.

Forum marketers tend to communicate in a peer to peer, one-on-one fashion with group members almost all of the time. They have a real name.  They talk to people.  Address important questions.  Help them, if they can.  Tell a joke if it’s funny.  Share interesting photos and video clips that only they could produce.  And of course, sell stuff.

Most importantly, the way they sell is quite different than the way we market on Facebook today:  they seek to generate moments of serendipity with their target customers.

Um, what did he just say?

 

Serendipity

Photo credit- Amos Nachoum / Handout

Photo credit- Amos Nachoum / Handout

Wikipedia defines serendipity as,

a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it.

Julius H. Comroe once described serendipity as : to look for a needle in a haystack and get out of it with the farmer’s daughter.

Yeah, that’s the stuff.

Serendipity is that special win-win moment that happens when we truly understand our customer and his problem, and we know exactly how to help him. Our customer receives exactly what they were looking for, without any effort, and without even thinking about it. He’s truly surprised at his good fortune.  “Cool!”, he says.

Serendipity is the type of consumer experience that great brands are built upon.

So here’s the point of this post:  used correctly, social media can help you create moments of serendipity for your customers, too.  

I say this because social media connects people and organizations together around the interests, problems and solutions they care about. And, it’s a really efficient way to share information, advice and help with your market.

But how can a marketer create moments of serendipity in modern social media – in a systemic way?

 

Science, Chance or Art?

Let’s put some meat on the bones and look at how old-school social marketers leverage a discussion forum I love, the LotusTalk Forum, to create serendipitous moments that drive real revenue for them.

Let’s say you are a Lotus dealer who is tasked with generating traffic and sales from “social media”. How would you go about marketing your dealership and your inventory on a semi-anonymous social network like a discussion forum – or Twitter?

Well, you might want to:

share your top personal experiences

tell a joke

solve a problem

share technical information that only a Lotus Elise expert would know

or offer a hard-to-find item on a need-to-know basis

This is old-school social marketing, and it works.

Yes, the scale of forums is much smaller than Facebook, but the principles and methods are sound.

The central premise here is that you must be real, you must be part of the conversation, you must seek to help people solve problems as your primary objective.

Once you have achieved this social marketing zen, then selling becomes serendipity for your customers.

 

“Old School” Rules of Social Engagement

For more than 20 years, successful “social marketers” have relied upon the following best practices to generate sales from social media:

  1. Learn where and how your customers talk online.  Not just about your products and services, either.  On modern networks, look for groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and hash tags and keywords on Twitter (NeedTagger offers a third option).  There are thousands of forums and specialty social networks, too.  Creating your own community or Facebook page might also work, but it’s risky.
  2. spend days or weeks monitoring discussions before talking, i.e., listen carefully.
  3. Mix it up.  Engage in conversations regularly, often in ways that have nothing to do with selling or marketing products/services to anyone.  In other words, participate as a human being.
  4. Understand and respect the rules of the group.
  5. take time to build genuine relationships with people – and enjoy them!
  6. don’t take things too seriously; have fun.
  7. Actively look for needs that you can help with – whether they are business related or not.
  8. Interrupt conversations only when you can offer genuine value to the conversation.
  9. Always offer assistance with no strings attached.  Don’t, for example, send a prospect to a landing page to get a quick answer. Instead, share your email address, a price or a photo.  If they want a long answer found in something like an ebook or whitepaper, then landing pages are fine.
  10. after the sale, and with her permission, thank her for her business.

As you can see, creating moments of serendipity in social media is not an “art”.  There is a science to it.  A process, if you will.  It’s been done before.  You can learn how to do it, too.

Of course, in a few important ways this time it is different.  Social media is huge.  It is literally taking over the public’s attention.  Forums and IRC pale in comparison.  And there are content management elements in modern social networks that make them more media-like.

If you’re with me so far, then the biggest challenge for social marketers today boils down to:

 

Creating Moments of Serendipity at Twitter Scale

The volume of posts published in social media is doubling every year.  That’s why data mining, monitoring and engagement tools are important – they save you time and keep you focused on the conversations that matter.

In NeedTagger’s case, we help organizations detect conversations and expressions of need related to their content, products and services. We make it easier to approach, engage, follow and retweet people expressing needs, so a marketer can enter into a meaningful conversation with a prospect.

Other tools excel at helping large teams engage in a coordinated fashion, and still others excel at analyzing market conversations en masse, to understand what content and strategies make most sense.  All of these tools are about dealing with the enormous scale of social media.

Using tools to get more done with less is important.  But regardless of the tools you use, at the end of the day you must engage with people as a real person –  in your own authentic way.  And you must learn the rules of engagement – which are really not that new.

 

How To Use Promoted Tweets To Shorten Your Sales Cycle
Did you know? Dolphin teeth are used for grasping, not chewing. They have no jaw muscles for chewing.

Twitter recently announced Keyword Targeting for their Promoted Tweets ad product.

Performance marketers rejoiced,

Now we can generate leads and sales from social networks using native, keyword-targeted ads!

Maybe…

As Forbes pointed out in a recent article, the jury is out as to whether keyword-targeted advertising in social media will deliver search-engine level of performance. There are good reasons to doubt it will. The biggest difference? on Twitter, you are often interrupting conversations with your content, not responding to personal inquiries for help.

While you can definitely sell stuff on Twitter, it’s clear that most of Twitter’s marketing value (impressions) lies in top-of-funnel branding, prospecting and lead nurturing activities, where Twitter’s real-time content-sharing and interest-based relationship-building competencies shine.

Can Twitter Be Used To Generate Leads At Scale?

Absolutely!

Twitter’s real-time content marketing advantages can be leveraged to capture warm leads, build email lists and shorten sales cycles. This is because Twitter is uniquely awesome at getting the right content in front of the right person at the right time – in real-time.

Now, with keyword targeted Promoted Tweets available to everyone, Twitter has made getting your content to people who need it a whole lot easier – because now you can automate your outreach marketing (the most frequent request from our users). Yes!

This post describes a simple process you can use to generate leads and to shorten your sales cycle using Twitter’s new keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets.

Here’s a deck we put together that explains the method in detail, along with a few lessons we learned along the way:

 

The cool thing about using intent-targeted Promoted Tweets is that it gets your best content in front of your prospects when THEY need it.

It’s like having a dedicated direct marketing team monitoring Twitter for leads, 24/7.

Even better: you don’t have to sit in front of the screen all day to monitor and respond!

Of course, you have to pay Twitter for the privilege of automating your content marketing. But for many marketers, it’s well worth the price.

The Strategy: Target Buyer Needs With Helpful Content

The strategy we recommend is to promote your most helpful content – FAQs, videos, blog posts, infographics, spec sheets, whatever – to carefully-targeted prospects during specific moments of need they discuss on Twitter.

If you don’t yet have high-quality, buyer-issue-focused content online, then go out and get some right now.

Presenting your most helpful content to prospects near their ‘moment of need’ can shorten your sales process in three important ways:

  • You will knock-down more sales obstacles, faster.
  • You will build your brand as a helpful provider of solutions and content – not a cold-calling machine.
  • You will respond to your buyer’s needs in real-time, in a non-threatening manner. Being timely can make a huge impact on engagement, CTR and lead conversion rates.

Tactically, you will be placing solution-focused Promoted Tweets in front of buyers discussing issues. Your Promoted Tweets will contain links to helpful content on your website.

To target your potential buyers, you will use conversational keywords that indicate purchase intent.  These keywords are what they actually say on Twitter during their moments of need.

OK, enough of the strategy – here is the process, starting with campaign planning.

Campaign Planning

Preparing for a sales-focused Promoted Tweets campaign is straightforward and consists of four steps:

  1. Compile a list of the questions and issues that your prospective customers and active leads commonly face.
  2. Gather links to helpful content you have already produced that address your prospects’ key issues.
  3. Create a landing page for each issue in 1.
  4. Post at least one tweet from your account with a link to each landing page in 3.

The first step is to compile a short-list of the most important questions and issues that commonly stand between an uninformed prospect and a sale. The best way to find these issues is to ask your sales force or your direct marketing team, if you have one. If you target multiple types of buyers or personas, then you will need a list of issues for each persona.

The second step is to gather together (or create) links to blog posts, videos and other forms of high-quality digital content that addresses each key buyer issue. It is best if the content is yours, but it’s not required: plenty of people will click on your bio and follow you if you share helpful content. The important thing is that the content you share addresses the issue and is helpful.

Next, you will create at least one landing page for each issue or group of similar issues. Place your content behind or on these landing pages and generate a unique web tracking code for each. Each landing page should provide a way to capture lead information like a social login, an email signup form or a full-blown lead capture form.

Finally, you will prepare one or more Promoted Tweets for each issue. This is because on Twitter, your tweet is your native ad.  In your posts, be natural, use a 1-to-1 conversation tone and keep it brief (like you normally do on Twitter).

For promoted tweets, we like to combine a short buyer question with a simple CTA, for example:

Trouble With Malware? Learn 3 ways to eliminate it from your life: http://ntag.it/5vbcxr

Now that you have your marketing assets in place, you are ready to launch your first intent-targeted Promoted Tweets Campaign.

Campaign Execution

Setting up a campaign on Twitter is easy.

You will want to create one Promoted Tweets Campaign per buyer issue addressed. This way, you can see how well you are addressing specific pain points and how good each type of issue is at delivering sales-qualified leads.

Setting up a keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets campaign to address a specific issue in your buyer’s journey is easy to do – if you know what keywords to use. More about that in a second.

You’ll enter your keywords into the campaign panel below. You can choose from Broad Match, Phrase Match or Negative Keyword match for each keyword entered.  There is a practical user interface limit of about 300 keywords, although the system can actually handle more.

twitter keyword targeting

twitter keyword targeting

So… how do you identify the right conversational keywords for an issue-focused campaign?

Selecting the Right Keywords: Not The Same As Search

To come up with the right keywords for your campaign, the first thing you should do is take a few minutes to listen to what your prospective buyers actually say on Twitter.

Use Twitter Advanced Search or a specialized tool like NeedTagger to filter Twitter for people discussing the issues on your list. Take note of the verb phrases (intent markers), topics and hashtags that are commonly mentioned.

For example, this guy has an issue with malware and might need some anti-virus software:

Malware example tweet Snapshot 9:25:13 7:54 AM

Verb (intent) markers include: “ruins your day” and “fml”.

Topics include “malware” and “browsers”.

As you can see from the example above, the words people use to express intent on Twitter (conversational keywords) are often different than the keywords they might enter into Google to find a solution (search keywords).

To illustrate just how different, what sort of solutions do you think Clinton might find on Google if he entered the keyword, “ruins your day malware fml”?

Just for giggles, we tried it – here’s what we got:

ruins your day Snapshot 9:25:13 8:02 AMWhere’s Norton AntiVirus when you need them?

Selecting the right conversational keywords to target is a potential stumbling block for anyone who wants to augment their Google AdWords PPC campaigns with keyword-targeted social media campaigns. Especially if they are performance-marketing oriented, which means they want to target purchase intent (mostly).

To help bridge this gap, we’ve been working on an automated way to identify the right conversational keywords to target, for NeedTagger customers.

Currently in private beta, NeedTagger can now automatically generate a list of the top-performing conversational keywords for your intent-filtered stream.  (ask us about the beta if you’re interested).

Here’s how that works:

needtagger converts keywords Snapshot 9:25:13 8:45 AM

 

 

An alternative way to generate conversational keywords is to use a keyword combination tool (Google AdWords has a free one) and combine verb phrases and topics together, as follows:

SEO keyword combination tool Snapshot 9:25:13 8:29 AM

Measuring Results

Twitter provides a great set of analytics that help you understand how effective your ad campaigns are and in how people are engaging with your Promoted Tweets.

Analytics compared Twitter vs NeedTagger Snapshot 9:25:13 12:39 PM

Twitter does not, however, provide a way for you to A/B test your landing pages and messages against a target audience prior to launching a paid campaign. Using a tool like NeedTagger is a great way to test your messaging in real-time with real prospects to see how well they work – before you start paying to promote them.

In our Insights tab, NeedTagger also provides the actual number of needs we find each day for your intent-filtered stream of conversations. We cannot guarantee 100% alignment with what Twitter targets for your keywords (we use different algorithms), but Insights can give you a pretty good indication of how much opportunity there is inside of Twitter for your campaign, before you start paying.

We also generate daily email alerts that will keep you on top of your market.

Optimizing Your Campaign

Twitter offers several cool features and media types that can help you maximize results. We won’t go into depth on them here.

One does deserve a mention for lead generators, however:

Twitter has been testing a new Lead Generation Card that simplifies content sharing and lead capture from prospects who like your helpful content. The way it works is really simple (see screenshot below).

Twitter Lead Generation Card

Twitter Lead Generation Card

Lead Gen Cards are great for building email lists!

Just understand that this is all you will get – an email address. To mine those leads, you will need a decent marketing automation platform.

In summary, Twitter’s new keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets product is a powerful new tool in a performance marketer’s kit. But you’ll need high quality helpful content and know how to identify the right conversational keywords to make it work for you.

To learn about more ways to leverage social media for lead generation, check out this excellent presentation prepared by Marketo:

 

Have you tried Twitter’s new keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets?

Tell us about your experience, by leaving a comment below.

Does Online Influencer Marketing Really Impact Sales?
Did you know? Killing a dolphin in ancient Greece was punishable by death.

This evening on Google+, I came across the following video of Sam Fiorella, courtesy of his business partner, Danny Brown.

Source: http://www.senseimarketing.com/customer-decision-making-processes-and-influence-marketing/

If you don’t know who they are, Sam and Danny are experts in the science of “influencer marketing”.

Their just-released book is a challenging view of how influence actually works in today’s age of multi-channel, socially-connected marketing.

I deeply respect Sam and Danny for the work they are doing to unravel this complex subject.

So far, however, I am unconvinced that online influencer marketing makes much of a meaningful impact on sales.

At least, not at an ROI that compares favorably with other marketing options available today.

To be clear, I’m not saying you can’t sell on Twitter – our customers have proven that you can, a thousand times over.

What I’m saying here is that it’s not clear you can recruit other people to sell for you. At least, not at any sort of affordable scale.

Offline Relationships Still Matter

A big open issue regarding the influencer marketing trend concerns the relative importance of offline and online relationships between the same two people.

The issue is best explained by asking this question:

If an offline relationship existed between a buyer and seller prior to an online interaction, should the online interaction be counted as the only driver of the sale?

Of course not!

Yet, this is exactly what metrics like Klout and PeerIndex are being used to claim. To be fair, the metrics companies themselves are quite clear their numbers shouldn’t be taken out of context. Nevertheless, this is exactly what a lot of marketing teams are doing – this morning!

Until someone does a decent job analyzing both types of influence in the same study, I think every marketing team should pause and ask the same question.

My personal hunch is that offline relationships are where most sales influence actually lies. If you ask any sales person about this – including social selling pros – they will tell you ALL about the importance of building offline relationships.

Online Purchase Intent: Search vs. Social

Even if we restrict our view to purely online channels, it appears to us that personal intent signals like Google search queries are at least one order of magnitude better predictors of purchase intent than social signals such as: Twitter & Facebook search queries; influencer scores like Klout & PeerIndex; and relationship vectors derived from social and interest graphs, et al.

For the record, please note that I am the CEO/founder of a social customer prospecting platform.  We don’t take this stuff lightly 😉

And, again, the world of marketing cannot be boiled into a single number. I’m sure there are exceptions. I just haven’t seen any that we well-documented, yet.

For both personal and professional reasons, I’d love to see a rigorous study (or three) that proves online influencer marketing drives incremental sales with a positive ROI (at scale) – this would be an incredibly important insight.

But as a trained engineer, I am forced to ask myself: where’s the proof?

Causation is Not Correlation (or something like that)

A lot of what I am saying here is based on our experience running a social customer prospecting platform and my own analysis of studies to date.

For example, we’ve run dozens of tests comparing Twitter organic and paid marketing campaigns vs. equivalent search engine organic and paid campaigns to understand how the two channels compare in their ability to drive sales.

Every influencer marketing study I’ve read so far has basically been a statistical correlation of online data – not a scientific analysis of human behavior.

Before I read yet another blog post about “the power of influencer marketing”… I’d love to read just one that lays out a little scientific method, so we can find out what’s really going on!

For example, I’d like to know:

  • how do online and offline communications actually influence purchases?
  • what is the hypothesis we just tested?
  • what is the design of our experiment?
  • how did we control our experiment for independent variables?
  • what were our expected results – before running the experiment?
  • how did our actual results differ from expected results – with a thoughtful analysis of the probable reasons why?
  • please provide a detailed description of the mechanisms, systems and processes involved in converting our dependent variables into independently verifiable results.
  • what are the possible sources of error and their magnitudes?
  • please provide a thoughtful comparison of prior study results vs. ours?

I don’t think I am asking too much.

For years, the best search marketers have been using this type of scientific rigor to optimize online sales.

Yes, search geeks lean on statistics – a LOT. But they also base their experiments and hypotheses on detailed observations of human behavior using heat maps, eye tracking, et al.

So why aren’t we doing this type of primary research in social media / influencer marketing?

After speaking with Danny Brown on Google+ a few months ago, I know that he and Sam Fiorella understand the differences I’m talking about here.  In fact, they are working on a more rigorous way to measure the types of influence that really matter to business.  I applaud their efforts.  It’s a huge challenge, and it’s where we need to go.

But for now, I can’t help but be skeptical about what we call “influencer marketing” today – which is mostly just a new type of PR outreach.

I hope my skepticism is off-base. Because proving that influencer marketing drives sales (profitably) would be an incredibly important thing to learn.

The bottom line is: if we are going to claim that influencer marketing is a meaningful way to drive sales at a positive ROI – then the onus is on us to prove that it actually does.

I look forward to seeing more evidence as the story unfolds.

For now, consider me a “hopeful skeptic”.

NeedTagger helps you find and engage with people who may need your business right now.

Creating a stream of engagement opportunities for your business is easy.  If you’ve ever used an advanced search tool like those offered by Twitter or Google, you can use NeedTagger.

Video Tutorial

Most people use NeedTagger for three things:

  • Meet New Customers
  • Manage Your Reputation 
  • Market Your Content (to People Who Need It)

This 10-minute video shows how to configure these three types of streams for your business, using examples as a guide.

 

 

Using NeedTagger in HootSuite

Do you use HootSuite for social media listening and engagement?

Then you might be interested in the following live demo that shows how to use the NeedTagger app in HootSuite to monitor Twitter for three types of business opportunities.

  1. Sales prospects – 1 stream per region
  2. Customer complaints – 1 stream per product line
  3. People who need your content – 1 stream per topic or blog post

In this video, we compare NeedTagger results against native keyword-filtered streams in HootSuite, to give you an idea of how our streams differ in quality.

 

Note: NeedTagger is FREE to try, but you will need a paid plan to use more than one stream at a time.

 

How To Build a Custom Stream Using StreamBuilder

The step-by-step guide below illustrates how to set up an intent-filtered stream using StreamBuilder.

Find customers and prospects on Twitter

The Settings

There are two ways to create a stream using NeedTager:

  1. Select a Pre-Tested Stream for your Industry (really easy).  Choose a stream that matches your type of business.  Then edit the keywords, audience settings and location settings to narrow your focus.
  1. Create a custom filter by telling us what you’re looking for.

Three Key Settings & How They Work Together

To create a custom stream for your business, you’ll need to enter at least three pieces of information into NeedTagger’s StreamBuilder search panel (see screenshot above):

  1. select the industry you operate in
  2. select the conversation types (intent) you are interested in, and,
  3. enter the discussion topics (keywords) that are relevant to your business.

These settings work together as if they were used in a sentence that describes the audience you are trying to reach, as explained in the slide below:

How the settings work 2013-01-07-103245

In addition to these settings, you can target your audience by location and profile using advanced targeting options. Expand the blue bar at the bottom of the screen to access them.

5 Most Common Stream Types

Most of our customers use NeedTagger to meet 5 business objectives.

The chart below shows how to set up each type of stream for your business.

Optional Settings (to narrow your focus further)

Pre-Tested Streams
Over 70 pre-tested prospecting streams have been created by the NeedTagger team for our customers in 13 industries.

Pre-Tested streams contain extra settings (green lamp indicator) which are not visible, because they cannot be easily mapped into the StreamBuilder interface (we leverage more intelligence than you see in the search panel).

You may edit a pre-tested stream; however, if you change the Conversation Filters setting, the “extra stuff” lamp will turn off and the filter’s quality will diminish.

 

Keyword Groups

These are common, pre-tested topic groups for an industry.  Eliminates the need to enter long lists of common keywords.

 

Location (Profile) 

About 40% of Twitter users declare their residence in their profiles.  To narrow your geographic focus, select the state, city and radius to limit posts coming from people who live within that region.

 

Location (Message) 

Only about 1% of tweets today note where they were posted from (geo tagged), so use this one sparingly.  Select the state, city and radius to restrict your stream to posts made from a specific location.

Target Audience

Enter keywords to search Twitter profile descriptions (see red box below) for people who mention specific job titles, family roles, hobbies, professional certifications, etc. in their profiles.

Profile Filters 

We’ve assembled pre-tested Twitter profiles that look for common job titles, interests and social roles. Specific to an industry.

 


Tweak ‘Em ‘Til You’re Satisfied

After you save your settings, your stream will update itself automatically and present itself for your review.  Up to 30 days of history will be shown.

Edit-and-Save your settings as many times as you’d like… until you get the stream quality you want.

Once your prospecting streams are setup, you can sit back and watch the opportunities flow.

Social Data: The Rocket Fuel for Real-Time Marketing
Did you know? Dolphin teeth are used for grasping, not chewing. They have no jaw muscles for chewing.

NOTE: This is the second post in a 3-part series that addresses the future of real-time, multi-channel marketing and the critical, driving role that social media plays in it.

 

In the first post, we discussed the critical role that marketing automation platforms play as the system of record for real-time integrated marketing. We also pointed out the gaps that must be closed with social media marketing to make real time, cross-channel marketing a reality.

 

In this post, we discuss how real-time social data can be used to make your organization more agile and responsive, across all channels – even if you don’t do a lot of social media marketing today.

Social Data = Real Time Intelligence

During the past couple of months, I’ve had the good fortune to talk with some of the brightest minds in the marketing automation and social media marketing industries about the future role of social media in enterprise marketing.

A question we explored was:

How should real-time social data be used in enterprise marketing to optimize bottom-line results (traffic, leads and sales)?

To stimulate our discussions, I shared the following diagram we prepared last year.

It illustrates how real-time social data – scored for commercial intent – can be used to drive all sorts of well-proven marketing actions like sending emails, alerting sales reps and more.

social intent powers real time marketing by NeedTagger

One thing we all agreed on: social data can and should be used to drive  engagement in more marketing channels than social media. 

Why would you want to do this?  Because some channels are more suitable for listening and top-of-funnel engagement, while others are better at driving results and sales.

For example,

  • If an existing lead asks a question on Twitter about an issue your product addresses, then you might want to send them an email and update their lead score.

  • If you identify a new hot sales prospect on Facebook, then you might want to route the message to a call center or a rep for follow-up.

As hinted in the diagram above, there are many potential applications of real time social signals, especially when the data is scored for commercial intent.

Social Intent: The People and Posts That Matter Most

By “scored for commercial intent”, I mean that you have identified the people and posts that matter most to your business.

intent action resultsThese are the people who are asking questions, sharing complaints, discussing explicit needs, talking about key trigger events and life events, etc. related to your business, your type of business or your competitors.  They are indicating commercial intent about your business or about something you or your company can provide to them, such as your products, services, content and advice.

Whether they come from cookie data or from social media, signals of commercial intent represent new opportunities to engage, convince and sell.

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

In our experience, 3% to 5% of social media posts contain commercial intent. We monitor social intent on Twitter for thousands of businesses in 13 industries (B2C and B2B), so we know a little about this.

It’s important to note that analyzing social data for commercial intent is nothing new. It’s what your social media teams do every day as they monitor social streams for questions, complaints and prospects.

The Rise of the Machine: Surfacing Opportunities In Real Time

A big challenge faced by all marketers is sifting through the rising volume of social media posts to find those nuggets of intent. The volume of social data is currently growing faster than new users, because as a new user becomes acclimated to a network their posting activity typically increases.

For many companies, the volume of posts they have to mine is beyond their labor capacity to mine it. When peak times of day and major events are considered, most companies struggle mightily to keep up with social media monitoring in real time.

And, as we all know, responding to a prospect in real time makes all the difference, whether in lead generation, customer support or closing a sale.

Web Lead Sales Response Rates, Kellogg/MIT study 2007

Web Lead Sales Response Rates, Kellogg/MIT study 2007

Given that data volumes are overwhelming our labor constraints, machine-scoring of commercial intent makes a ton of sense. Using a machine to mine social media for commercial intent provides value to enterprise marketers in several ways, including:

  1. Save time monitoring social media: it separates the few really important signals from the noise, saving your social media teams time.

  2. Focus on the people and posts that matter: tagging your social data with intent makes it possible to focus on the people and posts that drive your business.

  3. Respond in real time: real-time responses produce better outcomes.
  4. Behave consistently: auto-tagging posts with intent means they don’t have to wait for people to flag them.

To date, the challenge has been: how do you machine-classify commercial intent in real time? As any text analytics vendor will tell you, this requires a deeper level of machine analysis than keyword search or sentiment analysis.

A handful of data mining companies have taken on this challenge and now offer working platforms, including us.

We think we’ve cracked the code generically for all industries. But it’s early, and we learn something new every day.

Listen in Social; Engage Where It Pays

When you bring real time social signals of intent into your marketing automation platform, you can market in entirely new ways in whatever channel that works. And you can listen and respond in real time.

You can leverage social signals of intent to improve the responsiveness and performance of many tasks, including:

  • sales prospecting

  • customer segmentation

  • behavioral targeting

  • lead scoring

  • customer support

  • reputation management

  • content marketing

  • ad-targeting (by intent)

  • real-time alerts for sales reps to follow-up

For example, here are some specific ways your company could leverage real-time social signals in Marketo:

Social Intent Unlocks New Marketing Capabilities
Social Intent Unlocks New Marketing Capabilities

Let’s drill into some of these in detail:

  • Social-triggered emails:  using social signals of commercial intent, you can identify when a lead discusses a very specific need or issue in social media that you can help them with and then reach out with a targeted email to address that issue (using a blog post or similar). This moves the lead closer to a sale. It’s also a lot less creepy than sending a message to someone who isn’t connected to you on that network.

  • Capture more prospects (social prospecting): identify people with the right profile discussing trigger events, complaining about competitors or outright looking for a solution like yours.  Then, use these signals to send an email or alert your sales rep to engage with the prospect – right now. This is how most NeedTagger customers use our apps.

  • Target ads by needs/intent: identify the intent-laden language your prospects express in social media during each stage of their customer journey; then, use these keywords to place native ads in front of them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

  • Score leads with social intent:  use social expressions of intent – not just mentions of keywords – to update lead scores. Intent signals are much more precise, so they are better suited for this type of real-time marketing.

  • Monitor social demand: social expressions of purchase intent, questions and complaints are important signals of how your audience and market feel about your brand and products – they tell you a lot more about your market’s likely behavior than keyword mining or sentiment classification can.

All of the above are practical ways to compress sales cycles and to keep you engaged with prospects and customers during important moments of need. It’s is how you would probably behave in the real world, if you had access to this type of real time intelligence.

Moving forward, if you want to behave like a real time business, then real-time social signals (scored for intent) will need to be incorporated into your marketing applications and processes. Because social media is where you’ll find the most real-time signals, long term.

Still A Greenfield Opportunity

Listening to social media for signals of intent, then using them to trigger marketing actions in other channels makes a ton of sense.

But most marketers aren’t aware of how big the opportunity is.

If we consider the volume of commercial signals expressed on Twitter alone, it’s already really big.

290 million needs expressed on Twitter every month (source: NeedTagger.com)

290 million needs expressed on Twitter every month (source: NeedTagger.com)

Leading enterprise software vendors clearly understand the opportunity. They know intent-mining is important, as evidenced by their recent acquisitions & partnerships:

It’s time to start experimenting!

If you’re interested in seeing what “social intent” looks like, try our Free customer prospecting app now.  Or mine your own social data for intent using our new API.

In our next post, we’ll show you how to leverage real-time social signals in your marketing systems today, so you can start driving real-time actions like the ones described above.

 

 

How To Mine Twitter for Prospects & Customer Issues using HootSuite [video demonstration]
Did you know? Dolphin teeth are used for grasping, not chewing. They have no jaw muscles for chewing.

Do you use HootSuite for social media listening and engagement?

Then you might be interested in the following 11-minute demonstration video, which shows how to use the NeedTagger app in HootSuite to monitor Twitter for three types of business opportunities:

  1. Sales prospects – 1 stream per region
  2. Customer complaints – 1 stream per product line
  3. People who need your content – 1 stream per topic or blog post

 

Note: NeedTagger is FREE to try, but you will need a paid plan to use more than one stream at a time.

 

NeedTagger is an intent marketing (filtering) platform that helps you find and connect directly with people who need your content, products and assistance right now.

Our apps help front-line sales and marketing professionals save time and stay focused on social selling, content marketing and customer support activities.

Our API-based data processing service (in private beta) helps marketers gain deeper insights into their market and extract actionable events from noisy social streams.

Already use NeedTagger?  then:

 


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

 

Social Selling is Like Water [video]
Did you know? Dolphins sleep by resting one half of their brain at a time so that one eye is always open.

“This is Water” is a great video that will inspire you to look at your job in a new light.

Based on a unique commencement speech made by author David Foster Wallace to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College, the video points out that tedious, mind-numbing, personally risky & difficult jobs – like social selling and prospecting can be – don’t have to wear you down.

In fact, the same tasks that drive you crazy right now can inspire you to succeed and thoroughly enjoy your job – if you think about them, and your role in the world, in the right way.

This video was produced after David Wallace’s untimely death in 2008.

(thanks to Matt Bertuzzi of the Bridge Group for sharing this video today)

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 Flipboard Effect: What If They Never See Our Content?
Did you know? Dolphins don't drink water. All of their hydration comes from the food they eat.

It took Google thirteen years to fill the online marketplace with search-friendly customers and web-enabled vendors.

Today, blogging, social sharing and marketing automation are filling the marketplace with content – and most of it is crap.

In response, your customers and prospects are starting to use apps like Flipboard to filter the crap out of their media streams – then sharing only the best with others.

What is your strategy for dealing with this shift in buyer behavior?

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”

 

Content Marketing Takes Off

During the past five years, content marketing has become a respected field in marketing. Spending on content marketing technologies is surging – dramatically:

  • The Content Marketing Institute reports that 45% of marketers will increase their content marketing budgets in 2013; the CMI now has 38,000 subscribers
  • eMarketer says that content marketing has become the top digital marketing priority for 2013
  • AdAge reports that 81% of marketers have content marketing in their budgets for 2013

The adoption of content as a marketing tool is a big reason that marketing automation vendors like Hubspot, Demandforce, Marketo and Eloqua (now Oracle) are growing like weeds:

  • Hubspot recently announced that sales of its all-in-one inbound marketing suite rose 82% in the past 12 months to $52 million. Total customers increased 42%, indicating strong pricing power.
  • In Marketo’s IPO filing, just released, they reported 80% growth on $58 million.

All of a sudden, it seems that companies of all stripes are hungry to learn content publishing, targeting and distribution practices.  Their aim?  to create and market timely, quality content in a coordinated fashion across multiple digital channels including email, web, mobile and social. So customers find them, instead of the other way around.

Blame It On Google

Google started all of this when they launched PageRank and created the first content marketing industry: Search Engine Marketing.

For the first time ever in a public setting, Google offered a convenient way to both find the content we need and to market our content (website) to those who need it.

Today, Google understands and benefits greatly from the shift in behavior they enabled.

Google also knows that content marketing and social media are tightly linked during branding, shopping and research activities. This is why they continue to tweak their page rank algorithms to prioritize high-quality content that is frequently shared by others.  The Penguin release in April, 2012, focused on prioritizing quality content, and the more recent Panda release started incorporating social signals into search engine rankings.

Google’s adoption of social signals is huge. It forces businesses to start sharing ever-increasing amounts of high quality content in social media – or risk losing the attention of their market.

I think the recent Google algorithm changes is the biggest reason every business is now scrambling to get their content/inbound marketing act together. So blame them.

The End of Cold Calls?

It is clear that buyer behavior is changing in most industries. And the pace of change seems to be accelerating.

In our personal quest for economic independence (and better deals), we all seem to be choosing to rely more and more on web sites, search engines and social networks to guide our decision making.

Ask any B2B marketing or sales professional, and they will tell you that an increasing number of prospects are ignoring sales calls in favor of researching their options online.

Ask any consumer brand marketer, and they will tell you about the declining effectiveness of traditional media and direct mail.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for people who hate cold calls (on either side).

coldcallobjection

The Rise of Marketing Automation

To meet the demand for more efficient content marketing, over 20 marketing automation vendors including, MarketoHubspotEloqua and DemandForce now offer sophisticated platforms that help companies of all sizes manage email interactions, publish and track content and manage social media marketing in an integrated fashion.

Their common business purpose is to help marketers create and distribute high-quality content to the right audience at the right time, with lead capture features and metrics for every step in the conversion process.

But, as VentureBeat recently explained, there is a dark side to marketing automation: by making it easier for more companies to publish more content more frequently, every potential customer now now must sift through a LOT more content in social streams and in search engine results.

Social Sharing Ups the Ante

Due to the content-sharing behavior that buttresses most social networks, it’s only natural that social media marketing, content marketing and marketing automation are all joined at the hip.

Today, most marketers know that if you’ve published good quality content on your website or blog, then you ought to be sharing it in social media as much as possible.

But marketing content to search engines is quite different than marketing content in social media.

Search engines wait for someone to ask them a question; social media streams are endless rivers of content that flow fast. Keeping your message in front of a socially-active audience takes a lot of timing and publishing skill – and reams of fresh content.

In other words, social sharing has increased the content marketing challenge by at least one order of magnitude.

Harvard Business Review has even piled on, to remind us that Marketers Are Not Publishing Enough Content.

With social media marketing becoming a standard budget line item, marketing automation vendors are beginning to add social prospecting and social publishing features.  For example,

  • Marketo, Eloqua and Hubspot offer social media publishing and content sharing features.
  • Most marketing automation tools offer social network/account integration features like follow-me buttons in emails, one-click publishing of content to social networks and traffic analytics for social media posts.
  • Leading marketing automation vendor, Act-On, offers a keyword-based tool called Twitter Prospector that customers seem to love (see comments on blog post)
  • Hubspot recently released their Social Inbox tool that lets you follow your marketing contacts in social media, and when they use certain keywords
  • LooptFuse (a marketing automation platform) and NearStream (a social media lead monitoring tool) recently merged their companies
  • Hubspot and HootSuite recently announced #ClosedLoopSocial, a product integration designed to improve content marketing and lead generation efforts around existing contacts

How Much Content Can We Take?

Using marketing automation and content marketing technologies, now any business can be both a publisher and a distributor of content in multiple channels. In social networks, a single piece of content can get shared 100s of times a day.

But:  in a world where personal attention is limited – and the volume of content is exploding – how does one compete?

Velocity Partners recently published a humorous but spot-on analysis of where we are headed next in content marketing.  It paints a picture of a market FLOODED WITH CONTENT, where only the absolute best will attract attention.  The rest will be white noise.

If you want confirmation of this, take a look at what the most successful social media brands are doing today.

James Gross, co-founder of digital content-marketing startup Percolate, noted:

Red Bull is creating 100-200 tweets per day. It’s a leading indicator of where brands have to go. I’m fine with the newsroom metaphor [for brand marketing] if it leads us to brands creating more relevant content.

But here’s the rub for most marketers:  not everyone can create high quality content all the time.  Not everyone can be the life of the party.

Jane! stop this crazy thing!

Fast-forward this trend a few years, and it becomes clear that there will be waayyy more content flying past our eyes than we’ll ever have time to consume.

The implication of this crappy content conundrum is easy to see.

The long-term challenge for marketers is not to publish great content.  The real challenge is on the demand side:  how will we get our content through personal media filters?

In other words, you can push all the great content you want onto the web and out to customers via email, but if people aren’t searching the web or checking their emails for fresh content any more, it’s not doing you much good.

And this is exactly what’s happening.

jane stop this crazy thing

Get Ready To Be Filtered

The competition for who gets to filter media for our consumption is fierce.

Over the past 100 years, responsibility for filtering & curating the media we consume has moved all the way from the supply side to the demand side of the media supply chain.

Control over media has moved from authors; to publishing conglomerates,  distributors & retailers (Amazon & Comcast); and, to digital media aggregators (Huffington Post and Netflix).  Most recently, control has begun shifting to social networks (Facebook).

On established social networks like Facebook and Twitter, we are already past the content saturation point for most users.  Consider:  

  • If we actually saw all of the content shared with us by our friends and the Likes we have access to on Facebook, we would quickly be overwhelmed by our Newsfeed.  So, Facebook uses EdgeRank to throttle the messages we receive from our friends. 
  • On Twitter, power users receive thousands of tweets an hour in their stream. So they rely on tools like HootSuite and NeedTagger to filter the fire hose for signal.
  • To try and retain their position as media curators for their users, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook continue to re-design their interfaces to provide a more efficient media consumption experience.

Today, the consumer is assuming control.

The widespread availability of personal media curation apps like Pinterest, Tumblr and Flipboard are making it easy for your prospects and customers to filter and curate their own media streams.

Why go to ANY website for your content, when you can carry a media curation app around in your pocket?

Given the extraordinarily fast rise in users of these apps, it seems pretty clear that people like controlling what they read.

For example, take Flipboard.

(Full Disclosure: I am an investor in Flipboard).

flipboard 86174v5-max-250x250

Flipboard’s recent 2.0 release ups their game as a mobile-friendly way for people to filter (curate) any type of content, then share what they like best back to their personal networks (ie, stronger social signals). Using Flipboard 2.0, I can follow people I trust and subscribe to topical magazines published by professional curators to get all of the content I need – music, video, photos, short form and long form content, whatever. I can even shop there.

Personal curation platforms are booming as a category. Twitter (+200mm users in 7 yrs), Flipboard (+60mm users in 3 yrs), Pinterest (+40mm in 3 yrs) and Tumblr are redefining how people find and consume content in all its forms.

This shift in behavior is occurring really quickly, too. For example, Flipboard just announced they grew from 20 million to over 50 million users in the past 6 months.  Flipboard is a mobile-only app!

Perhaps most ominous is the fact that Google is clearly trying to eliminate the need for people to search for content (at all).  As evidence, check out Google’s announcements at I/O 2013.

google-io-keynote-167

google-io-keynote-2013 by Mashable

Google is clearly working hard to enable consumer experiences that are best described as serendipitous (one term for this type of technology is ambient intelligence).

Google expects us to all rely upon a select few web services who know what we want to deliver important content and information to us, when we need it. Without forcing us to search or ask for it.

Features like this are already embedded in many of Google’s strategy platforms such as G+, Google Glass, Google Now, etc.

How Should Marketers Respond?

In our opinion, there are three competencies that modern marketers must master to thrive in an era of customer-filtered content, as follows:

1. Content Curation: build strong in-house content curation (not just publishing) skills, so you can publish the Flipboard magazines and Pinterest Boards your target market wants to follow.

2. Customer Acquisition (Digital Direct Marketing): get very good at mining web apps, personal curation platforms and social networks for customers. This means getting really good at data mining (identifying prospects you want to target), maintaining an active presence on every network that matters to your business; and, buying native ads on the apps and networks your customers use most.

3. Real-Time Marketing Optimization: you must ensure that you rank high in the search-like web services that your target customers rely on for real time/personalized recommendations – services such as Google Now or anything built on top of Google Search, for example. Many of the principles of SEO will remain sound (great quality content, domain authority, etc.).  But traditional SEO will no longer be enough.  You are going to have to get to know each web service and social network on an intimate basis, and you’ll have to optimize each according to your unique requirements.

 

The age of content marketing and noisy streams has arrived. Your customers and buyers are finding new ways to filter-out your content. What is your strategy for dealing with this change in buyer behavior?

 

How We Can Help

NeedTagger is a customer acquisition platform that helps marketers sift through noisy social streams to identify meaningful customer engagement opportunities for their business.

Our approach is the exact opposite of “spray and pray”; instead, we help you find and connect with people who actually need your content, products, services and assistance right now.

 

(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!