(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 2,500 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.
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.
The key benefits of intent-marketing tools are:
- they save you time, because they filter-out a lot of noise and spam from your prospecting streams; and,
- 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:
- 10 ways to introduce yourself to a prospect on Twitter
- gallery of Twitter introductions (on Pinterest)
- Find customers on Twitter using the skills you already have
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!