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.

How To Use Social Media to Trigger Actions In Your Marketing Automation Platform
Did you know? Marine dolphins see quite well both below and above the water.

This is the final 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 our first and second posts, we discussed how real-time social data can make an enterprise more agile and responsive, and we discussed the critical role that marketing automation platforms play in making this possible.

 

In this post, we’ll show you how to get access to real-time social data, extract meaningful signals from it and leverage them in your marketing automation platform to trigger emails, score leads and improve marketing performance.

Social Triggers: Like Any Other (but different)

Most marketing automation platforms can leverage online behaviors to trigger a variety of marketing actions today. For example, many will let you automatically send an email to a contact when they visit a certain page, or launch a drip campaign after a successful lead capture.

Social signals of intent are another class of behavioral trigger that many leading MAPs can leverage today (with IT assistance) to trigger emails, send internal alerts, launch campaigns, score leads – pretty much anything your marketing automation system can do.

By “social signals of intent”, I mean social media users who are asking questions about, complaining about and explicitly buying your type of products and services.  These are just three examples – there are actually dozens of types of social signals of intent that can be leveraged to trigger marketing actions.

Using social signals to automatically trigger marketing actions offers several advantages over web- and other behavioral triggers, including:

  • more behavioral triggers per contact: your socially-active contacts are publishing a huge amount of data about their likes, interests and feelings in social media.  More signals means you have a chance to interact more often, around very specific topics.  This shortens sales cycles and keeps your prospect engaged with you.
  • higher-quality signals of intent: a traditional marketing trigger is really just a guess about someone’s intentions based on an action like downloading a white paper or clicking on a certain page. A person’s words provide much more information about their intent.  In fact, some social signals are extremely explicit requests to buy!
  • eliminate the ‘creepy’ factor in social media marketing:  if you identify a person complaining about a competitor on Twitter and then send them a tweet, it can be kinda creepy.  But if you send them an email pointing out the differences between your products and your competitors,  the “stalker risk” is basically eliminated from the equation.

This article explains how to build social triggers you can use in your marketing automation system, in four steps.

Note: you do not need to be active in social media in order to to use socially-triggered marketing, because it does not require a response in social media.

Step 1:  Get Real-Time Social Data For Your Business

The first step, of course, is to get real-time social data for your business.

  • By real time, I mean pulling new data in every hour or so.
  • By social data, I mean grabbing posts published on the social networks, forums and blogs your contacts & prospects use the most.
  • By for your business, I mean gathering posts published by your existing network of prospects, customers, followers and contacts PLUS gathering public posts containing keywords related to your business.

gnip logodatasift

There are several places you can obtain real-time social data for your business, including:

  • from the social networks themselves, using their Open APIs.

  • from third party social data providers like Datasift and GNIP

  • from your existing social media monitoring platform, such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Oracle Social Relationship Management.

Depending upon your business objective, the data you acquire may be for your followers only (Facebook fans & Twitter followers); all public posts about topics that matter to your business (Twitter, blog comments, forum posts); or, both.

Step 2:  Mine Your Social Data for Signals That Matter

Next, you will need to mine your social data for suitable trigger signals.  In our experience, about 3-5% of all tweets contain some form of commercial intent (about 300 million events per month on Twitter / English language alone).

Your options for identifying trigger signals in your social data include:

  1. Manually classify your social data (ie, monitor and flag for action).  This is the most common and most precise method available, but there are serious drawbacks. First, you can only scale this method by adding people. Second, your recall (market coverage) will suffer whenever your labor is tapped out or off-duty – meaning you will miss some opportunities.  Third, you may struggle with the timeliness and consistency of your results, which means you will miss more “windows of opportunity”.

  2. Machine-classify using keywords and/or text analytics: Some companies use a combination of natural language processing (text analytics), Boolean keyword expressions and/or sentiment classification to approximate “intent”.  This method can be automated, which saves time. Unfortunately, to get results anywhere close to useful, you will either need to become a boolean keyword ninja or employ expensive linguistics experts to build natural language filters for your business. Otherwise, the precision and recall of text-mining methods will not be very good.  This means you will get a lot of signals that aren’t what you’re looking for, and you will miss a lot of opportunities. Most customers we’ve worked with who have tried keyword-mining approaches have been unhappy with the quality of results.

  3. Machine-classify using a specialized intent-mining platform like NeedTagger.  Intent-mining platforms offer better results than keyword and text-mining approaches in terms of cost, precision and recall – but they are still not as precise as human beings. Some platforms like ours leverage more data than text to classify intent, which is what creates the precision advantage.  NeedTagger also lets you create your own ‘intent filters’ for any need and test them in real-time against Twitter.  Other vendors that offer intent-classification services include LeadSift, Solariat and Aiaioo.

Machine Detection of Intent: NeedTagger’s Social Signals API

We’ve developed an API that mines your social data for signals of intent. It works with any short-form social posts, in real time.

NeedTagger API example

NeedTagger API: sample input & output

Out of the box, our API identifies more than 70 signals of intent, which are grouped into four basic types:

  1. 14 conversation types: Asking Questions, Buying, Wishing, Complaining, etc.

  2. buying signals for over 60 common product & service types: buying a car, getting a mortgage, applying for college, etc.

  3. Life Events: moving, recent pregnancy, a new job, etc.

  4. In addition, you can build custom social signals for your business in minutes using our self-service app (no other provider offers this flexibility).

Every post submitted to our API is analyzed for the four types above. Results are provided in seconds.

Our API is optimized for Twitter, but it classifies any short-form social media like the kind you find on Twitter, Facebook, blog comments and more. Right now, we are limited to the English language.

Create Custom Social Signals For Your Business

Using our Social Signals API, you can build custom “social signals” for any type of need or requirement and immediately gain access to them from our API.

The diagram below explains how this works:

NeedTagger API how it works

Creating a new social signal for your business is easy. Our StreamBuilder tool lets you create a custom signal filter and view the types of posts it finds, in real time.  StreamBuilder works a lot like Twitter Advanced Search, just with more search options.

If you’d like to learn more about our new Social Signals API, use our API Inquiry Form or send an email to info@needtagger dot com.

Step 3:  Get Social IDs for Your Marketing Contacts

In order to take full advantage of the signals you receive, you’ll need to know the social IDs for the contacts in your database, so when a social signal comes in you will know who posted it.

Most MAPs today allow you to maintain social ids for contacts.  If you are doing this religiously, then move on to Step 4.

If you aren’t maintaining social IDs for your contacts, you can leverage third party services such as Social123Fliptop and FullContact to maintain the social data for your contacts, automatically.

fliptop logosocial123 logofull contact logo

Couple of cautions, though:

  • no provider can map social IDs to email addresses with 100% coverage.

  • the mapping process works 1-way: you can retrieve social account IDs for email addresses & social IDs, but you won’t be able to retrieve an email address for a given social ID.

To keep your contact database fresh you will need to send all new contacts through your provider’s API immediately, and you may want to build a polling routine to update existing contacts every month or so.

Step 4:  Create Social Triggers In Your Marketing Automation Platform

The final step is to create social triggers in your marketing automation platform that can be used to send emails, score leads or whatever you think is appropriate.

marketo lead scoring setup

Marketo lead scoring setup

Some MAPs are better than others in utilizing external data to trigger events. Silverpop and Marketo are two that can do this today (with IT assistance).

The process of building social triggers is the same used to create any other type of trigger, except the trigger signal is from social media. Each MAP has its own process for creating a marketing trigger, so I won’t go into that in detail.

hubspot email trigger setupFrom this point forward, your social triggers will work like any other trigger – email, web hook, landing page, whatever.

Cool, huh?

The “social triggers” discussed above can be implemented today with some packaged marketing automation platforms. If you use an in-house marketing automation system, you will need IT’s assistance, but it can be implemented today.

We hope this article has opened your eyes to the new marketing automation capabilities that real-time, social data can provide for your business.

 

Social Data: The Rocket Fuel for Real-Time Marketing
Did you know? Killing a dolphin in ancient Greece was punishable by death.

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.

 

 

Marketing With One Eye Closed: Closing the Gap Between Social Media & Marketing Automation
Did you know? Dolphins don't drink water. All of their hydration comes from the food they eat.

Marketing with One Eye Closed

For many months, I’ve been stewing about the obvious lack of integration between social media monitoring software (SMMS) and marketing automation platforms (MAP).

I’ve been thinking about it because NeedTagger’s users are evenly split between marketing and sales professionals. Both use our tool to connect with customers and prospects on Twitter (for different purposes).

Popeye-pipe-logoEvery day, I see how disconnected social selling pros are from inbound marketing and lead generation teams. At times, it’s like they live in two different worlds. 

That’s unfortunate, because both teams are trying to communicate with the same people for basically the same reason. It’s also unfortunate for the prospect or contact being targeted, because the messages they receive can be redundant, conflicting or downright confusing.

As a social selling professional, I need to know what our marketing team knows about the person I’m talking to right now, for example:

  • what were the last few marketing emails we sent to them?
  • what marketing content is available to share with this person?
  • what content are we sharing today from our key social media accounts?

Likewise, marketing automation platforms send emails to contacts all the time without considering important information available in social media, such as:

  • what is our history of social interactions with this person?
  • what recent signals of purchase intent – positive or negative – has this person demonstrated in social meda?
  • are there any outstanding questions or complaints posted by this person on Twitter?

Perhaps this disconnect persists because social media is so new that marketing automation platforms haven’t caught up. Or maybe it’s because social prospecting and selling tend to be more of a “grass-roots” initiative by sales reps, whereas marketing automation tends to be a top-down budgeted program.

Whatever the reasons, real-time, cross-channel engagement with individuals is a bit of a mess from the customer’s point of view – so we’d better clean things up!

Of course, our company sells a social media monitoring/prospecting tool, which means we own 1/2 of this problem.

During the past couple of months, I’ve reached out to leading marketing automation consultants and platform providers to discuss the gaps between our types of solutions and to identify ways we might integrate our apps and data with their platforms. This post is based on those conversations.

This is a long read because we address a number of related topics:

  • why seamless integration between social media and marketing automation technology is a must, moving forward.
  • how social media and marketing automation solutions are evolving to adapt to the new world of the real time customer
  • what gaps must be closed between social media and marketing automation platforms
  • where the software industry stands today re. closing these gaps. 

Marketing’s Future: Real Time, Personal & Data-Driven

Marketing professionals are under increasing pressure to master the art of real-time, data-driven personalized marketing in all channels.

As a member of a real time marketing team, you are – or soon will be – charged with listening to your market and engaging with prospects and customers “in the moment”. Your responsibilities may include:

  • monitoring social media and the real-time web for engagement opportunities

  • engaging directly with prospects & customers in real time

  • activating influencers

  • recruiting & rewarding brand advocates, and,

  • creating, curating and publishing reams of fresh content to take advantage of trends.

In his recent response to Salesforce’s acquisition of ExactTarget, Phil Fernandez, CEO of Marketo, explained where the pressure is coming from:

Twitter_Phil

Phil Fernandez

We believe that marketing is undergoing a deep transformation driven by large-scale trends such as the rise of self-directed consumers and broad and instant availability of information online. This means marketers must fundamentally change how they engage with prospects and customers.

 

And this in turn requires a new kind of technology solution – one that helps them to create relationship-building dialogs across fragmented channels, one that helps them think holistically about the entire range of responsibilities of the modern marketing professional, and one that is powered by deep insight and analytics.

For those who step up to the data-driven marketing challenge, the good news is that there is no shortage of real-time data to mine for opportunity. Especially in social media, the world’s largest real-time customer database.  

But mining data is only half the story.  Marketing in a social world also requires getting personalThe importance of real-time, personal engagement was highlighted when HubSpot CEO, Brian Halligan, discussed why they released their new 1-to-1 social media monitoring and engagement panel, Social Inbox:

Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot

Brian Halligan

Over the last five years, social media marketing has been far from lovable; in fact, brands were typically using social media to push out contests, sweepstakes, and promotional content—tactics that are impersonal for customers and ineffective for marketers. HubSpot Social Inbox allows marketers to create, share, promote, monitor, respond, and integrate social media into their overall marketing approach. Social Inbox is a powerful vehicle for marketers that results in a singular narrative for customers.

Not many organizations are experts at turning real-time social data into personalized marketing and selling actions.

But that’s starting to change.

Social Listening Moves From Analytics to Action

First-generation social media monitoring platforms like Marketwired (Sysomos) and Salesforce (Radian6) led the social data mining charge by helping marketers convert social data into useful insights. Social media monitoring and analytics are still powerful ways to monitor and learn about your market.

The problem is that in most companies today, social data is not being mined in a systemic way to generate sales, leads and customer satisfactionInstead, most of it is still stuck in analytics for market research, branding, PR and advertising. 

When it is leveraged for action, social data is recirculated within social media marketing silos – we see an opportunity on Twitter, so we respond on Twitter – as though our customers only live on Twitter! Very little social data is being leveraged to drive actions in the channels that we know work best – be that email, direct mail or a telephone call.

Radian6 Dashboard

Radian6 Dashboard

But times are changing.  Social data mining is moving past its role as an analytics tool into driving results in real time.

New targeted ad products from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are examples of how social data mining can drive bottom-line performance. For example, Twitter just launched a new lead generation card.

Twitter's New Lead Generation Card

Twitter’s New Lead Generation Card

In addition, new data mining and social selling tools have arrived that makes it easier to spot business opportunities & to engage with prospects in social media, in real time.

Using NeedTagger to Mine for Customers in HootSuite (live demo)

New social data mining APIs (like our new Social Signals API) are making it easier for marketers to listen for buying signals in social media and take action in other channels – in a fully automated way.

Yet another example of data mining for action is the new crop of predictive sales intelligence applications like LatticeEngines that analyze your customer data, then scan social media and the web to identify high-probability prospects for your business.

Clearly, social data mining has moved into the “action zone”.

But is it producing results?

Social Media’s ROI Problem

Wimpy - well fundedMany smart people claim that social media marketing will never pay like we think it will. That it may never generate sales and leads. That it’s all about “top of the funnel”.

Their claims ignore a large & growing body of evidence that social media marketing actually does generate sales, improves the performance of inbound marketing and can reduce lead costs by more than half. Those of us who serve customer-facing professionals with social media technology know the ROI is there.

But to be fair, the skeptics are correct that it has been really difficult to impossible to prove social media marketing impacts sales and lowers costs in a consistent, reliable way.

Why is this so? We think for three reasons:

  1. Harvesting social media for leads and sales is mostly a manual process today: finding business opportunities in noisy social networks is an expensive, error-prone task. Record keeping is abysmal. Better advertising options are coming along, but they are siloed within each social network.

  2. Social media marketing systems remain mostly disconnected from other marketing and CRM systems. So, the full range of social interactions with a given person isn’t being tracked.

  3. Sales attribution is a mess across all digital channels, anyway. Before social media it was really hard to know what specific actions drove each sale. Now, it’s harder. Let’s face it: “last-click” attribution is not an accurate way to measure social media’s impact on sales.

In other words, a lot of Social Media’s ROI problem is due to a lack of integration with other customer systems of record.

Obviously, we need to clear up this confusion. But how?

Marketing Automation’s Future: Real Time Demand Generation

Like other CEOs of marketing and sales technology companies, I believe that the real-time and pervasive nature of social media is forcing enterprise marketers to integrate the best features from their social media listening platforms, CRM and marketing automation platforms into a real-time demand generation platform.  By hook or by crook, we’ll all have to get there.

The real time demand generation platform of the future will serve as a company’s system of engagement with a wide variety of external stakeholders – not just email contacts and social media followers. More specifically, it will do at least six things well:

  1. listen and respond to individuals on a 1-to-1 basis, in real time (in any channel): to do this, we have to manage and track every type of communication, marketing action and selling interaction we have with each person, in real time. This is not a recommendation that we should respond to every signal in real time, nor that every engagement needs to be personalized – that’s not scalable. But we do need to keep tabs on people in real time and be ready to respond in a personal way & in the most appropriate channel, when needed.
  2. listen to every person that matters in our market (not just our contacts & followers): maintain real-time intelligence on every person that matters to our business: prospects, customers, contacts, influencers, advocates and partners. Social media’s strength lies in its ability to not only listen to everyone that matters, but to leverage social relationships where possible to spread the word. In contrast, most marketing automation platforms restrict our market reach to email contacts & followers.
  3. completely inform every engagement and action we take with every person: capture a complete & accurate view of each person’s behavior, profile and history of our interactions (manual or automated) throughout the lifecycle of our relationship with them. Then, make this profile available to every automated system and to every employee that might interact with that person.
  4. select the right channel for every engagement and automated action: marketers should be able to leverage all of the intelligence we have on a person to take action in the channel(s) that make the most sense for each interaction.  We should be able to listen in one channel and act in another – seamlessly.
  5. automate as much work as possible, reserving the hardest problems & most sensitive interactions for our most valuable resource (our employees): using a blend of predictive analytics, natural language processing and human expertise, we should automate as much predictable work as we can, so we can spend our scarcest resource – skilled labor – on the most important people, events and exceptions.
  6. provide analytics suitable for A/B testing cross-channel, real time engagement with individuals: support agile, data-based decision making regarding the owned, earned and paid media investments we make, down to the individual person or persona where needed. Content, contacts and market segments will be shared across multiple channels and across owned, earned and paid media. We need analytics that can deal with this complexity.

Note: some MAP vendors call their vision, “Revenue Generation” – but unless their system is closing the deal and taking the order, I think that’s stretching it a bit.

Putting aside the jargon, I think it’s easy to understand why we’ll need marketing technology like this in the future.

It’s because our customers are pressuring us to get our digital act together – and real-time, personalized engagement is what they increasingly expect. Social media makes it too darn easy for people to share bad experiences, so you must respond to people and address those issues in real time if you want to compete in the public marketplace of the future.

I am a customer of many brands myself, and I would love it if the brands I do business with would behave in such an informed & responsive manner. Wouldn’t you?

Of course, I am not the first to point out what we need. Lots of visionary technology leaders led the way. Some of them are putting their words in to product.

If you attended Marc Benioff’s keynote at last year’s Dreamforce event in San Francisco (“Business is Social”), then you heard this integrated vision in spades. With lots of emphasis on “social”.

Bill Nussey, CEO of Silverpop, describes their company as a enabler of Behavioral Marketing, which is:

Silverpop CEO, Bill Nussey

Bill Nussey

…real-time, cross-channel, insanely relevant campaigns to one person at a time automatically driven by analytics of their actions, preferences and profiles.

 

 

Silverpop’s Director of Product Strategy, Bryan Brown, further explains how real time behaviors can, and should, drive better performance:

Marc, Phil, Brian, Bryan and Bill all seem to agree that marketing is going to be real time, personal, social and data-driven. They also understand that more social media marketing features must be integrated within their platforms (see update below).

Of course, implementing this real-time demand-gen nirvana will take time and effort. There are challenges we have to overcome – starting with where we will store all of our real-time data about people.

What’s Missing: A Complete System of Record for 1-to-1 Engagement

One thing I’m sure we need (soon) is a single system of record (SOR) to house all of the data about the people that make up our market – especially social data, which is the largest data resource available about people.

Some of my colleagues in the software industry might argue that we already have this system of record – theirs – but I disagree. We’re not there yet.

So what type of enterprise platform should house it? In the enterprise software world, there seem to be four candidates:

  1. a social media monitoring/management system (SMMS): HootSuite, Sprinklr, et al
  2. a customer relationship management (CRM) system: Salesforce, SugarCRM, NimbleCRM, et al
  3. a marketing automation platform (MAP): Marketo, Eloqua, ExactTarget, Hubspot, Responsys, et al
  4. a new type of real-time marketing/customer experience platform (RTM/CEX?):  lots of startups chasing this right now

I don’t think there are any social media monitoring systems out there that are capable of serving as a single system of record for multi-channel digital marketing and engagement, so I’m not going to analyze the pros/cons of doing that.

Some think the best system of record for real-time 1-to-1 engagement is a CRM system like Salesforce.com. There are good arguments for doing this. And, there are new “Social CRM” platforms like Nimble CRM (which we use) that provide much better 360-degree views of your interactions with a person online.

Today’s SocialCRM platforms work well for on-the-ground social selling and relationship management, but there’s still that nagging issue that each person’s marketing context is missing. For example, we don’t know what emails our marketing team sent to that lead. And, we don’t know what sort of content they’ve clicked on in Twitter. It’s easy to ruin a good sales opportunity when you work like this.

While it’s theoretically possible that some of the new crop of startups focused on real time advertising and marketing in social media will take the lead, I won’t address that group here because I think it’s too early to know.

Besides, this post is long enough! There are many new companies focused on parts of this problem – just in social media (chart courtesy LUMA Partners):

Social LUMAscape

Social LUMAscape

Another potential system of record for 1-to-1 engagement is a marketing automation platform (MAP). 

Using a MAP as the system of record for real-time demand generation makes a lot of sense to me for several reasons:

  • we maintain our marketing contacts there
  • we measure cross-channel digital marketing performance there
  • we analyze and score our leads there
  • most social media engagement and marketing activity is top- (or middle-)of-the-funnel
  • most MAPs are already integrated with that other important system of record, CRM. 

If you use a MAP & a CRM platform today, then using your MAP as your marketing system of record is a “duh” conclusion.

But half of businesses haven’t made that leap yet. For them, here is a quick overview of what a marketing automation platform does:

WHAT IS A MARKETING AUTOMATION PLATFORM (MAP)?

Marketing automation platforms reduce the cost of acquiring customers by automating and integrating digital marketing tasks that companies traditionally perform in a solo’d fashion, including:

Marketing Automation features by Marketo

Marketing Automation features (by Marketo)

Marketing automation is also referred to as inbound marketing (Hubspot), behavioral marketing (Silverpop) revenue performance management (Marketo and Eloqua) and revenue marketing (The Pedowitz Group).

An important side-effect of integrating so many marketing activities around a single contact data base is that you get much better insight (and hard data) regarding how well your marketing investments are paying off in terms of leads, sales and satisfied customers. As long as all channels are integrated with your MAP, that is.

More than 20 vendors offer full-featured platforms for various industries and company sizes. Most marketing automation platforms were designed in the early- or mid-2000s, before social media came on the scene. They were designed to optimize web content management, SEO and email marketing activities. So, naturally, that’s where most of their capabilities lie. 

And business is good – demand for MAP technology increased by more than 50% in 2012.

Enter the new kid on the block, social media marketing.

In just a few years, social media marketing has grown from an experiment into a legitimate digital marketing channel that competes for billions in budget with search engines, display and email.

Closing the Gaps

mind the gap

For most digital marketers today, it is obvious that their social media data and applications must be integrated with other digital marketing efforts (eventually). Otherwise, we’re just marketing with one eye closed.

Likewise, most of the marketing automation industry executives I’ve talked with readily admit their platforms will need to integrate with many social media marketing activities.  Many are working to accomplish this right now.

But how, exactly, should these two worlds come together? what are the specific gaps that need to be closed?

Integration gaps exist on both sides of the divide: within social media monitoring and marketing platforms; and, within marketing automation platforms.

In social media platforms, for example, users do not have access to critical information about customers and prospects stored in CRM and MAP platforms. As a result, many social media teams lack a complete view of the company’s relationship with a person during an engagement. This is not a good thing.

On the marketing automation side of the house, there are at least four integration gaps with social media platforms that need to be addressed:

  1. most MAPs treat social media as a content publishing (broadcast) channel, rather than as a place to engage with people directly (which is what it is). For example, most MAPs lack social media prospecting tools, social customer segmentation, social lead scoring and real-time 1-to-1 engagement panels. Hubspot’s new Social InBox product stands out as an exception.

  2. most MAPs limit your social marketing reach to existing contacts (email contacts and followers). This flies in the face of the reality that very few brands are directly connected to more than 10% of their socially-active prospects on any social network. If you limit your reach to fans and followers, then you’re ignoring 90% of your prospects!  Act-On’s Twitter Prospector tool, LoopFuse’s Nearstream tool and Vocus’ Buying Signals offering are recent attempts by marketing automation providers to close this gap.

  3. MAPs rely on keywords to identify social media posts that matter. Analyzing people and posts for commercial intent is extremely important in social media marketing because that’s how we identify actionable events, prioritize our work & save time monitoring. Unfortunately, due to the conversational language of social networks, searching posts for keywords is not a reliable way to surface commercial intent in social media. Leading social media monitoring platforms offer natural language processing options for this reason. To get a feel for the difference, watch this video in which we demo keyword-filtered streams next to intent-filtered streams inside HootSuite.

  4. MAPs don’t incorporate enough social data in their analytics. Hubspot’s Megan Kearney recently wrote an excellent piece about the gaps between SMMS and MAP platforms, in which she commented on the social analytics gap:

By integrating social media into full marketing analytics that pull data from all channels, more and more marketers are starting to be able to understand how many leads, customers, and dollars their social media efforts are generating and what type of content generates the highest quality lead.

The Race To Integrate Is Underway

salesforce-exacttarget

Oracle’s recent acquisitions of Eloqua & Collective Intellect and Salesforce.com’s acquisitions of Radian6 and ExactTarget/Pardot are clear signals that more MAP-social integration is in the cards.

It will take time for these products to be integrated, but it’s pretty clear that real-time demand generation platforms are on the way.

Another sign: leading marketing automation providers are now adding native social media marketing features to their offerings, for example:

Nice progress, but a lot of integration remains.

Which begs the question: what can a marketer do today to bridge the social-MAP gap?


NOTE: If you had the patience to get this far, then I’ll let you in on a secret: this is the first of a series of three articles. In our next two posts, we’ll explain how you can tap into the massive amount of social data created every day to improve the performance of your marketing automation systems – even if your organization doesn’t use social media that much.

How To Mine Twitter for Prospects & Customer Issues using HootSuite [video demonstration]
Did you know? Killing a dolphin in ancient Greece was punishable by death.

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”

 

(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.

 

 

To acquire customers with social media, share your most helpful content with people who need it, as close to their moment of need as possible.

Recruiting Fans Isn’t Enough

Is your social media marketing objective to grow your business? If so, then you know you will have to reach NEW customers, not just your fans.  And influencers and advocates are really indirect methods of doing that.

Have you studied who is actually following your social accounts so far?  Are they customers and potential customers – or lurkers, bots and coupon-clippers?  Do you even know?

If you’re like most leading brands (see graphic below), then less than 10% of your addressable market in social media actually follow you there today (see chart below).

This means that for every qualified customer or prospect that follows you on Twitter today, there are probably another 10 who don’t (or won’t).

So how can you reach the “other 90%” of your market who won’t follow you online – but may need your stuff?

Content marketing has been recently bandied-about as the best way to attract new customers in social.  There’s a lot of logic behind this trend – organic search engine marketing is the biggie – but there’s so much crappy content out there today, many potential customers may never even notice you!

And spamming Twitter won’t get you there – especially if you try to automate your introductions, like this amateur spammer attempted to do:

Twitter spam FAIL

Twitter spam FAIL

So what sort of “content” should you share?

Funny videos, contests, personal stories and games may make you more interesting, but these forms of content are one-hit wonders that don’t address the reasons your customers buy stuff from you in the real world: you solve a problem for them.

To get customers really interested, you should probably strive to share helpful content, not to be “interesting“.

But forget theory – what do your customers say they want?

Better deals, for one. Study after study have clearly shown that better deals are the number one reason most people follow a brand in social media.  Here’s one study I grabbed from HootSuite recently:

why people follow brands in social media - hootsuite study

why people follow brands in social media – hootsuite study

If you really want new customers to follow and engage with you in social media, then your content will need to dig deeper and address the needs that your organization and your products satisfy for your customers in the real world. And, you need to deliver this helpful content to people who need it, as close to their moment of need as possible.

But first, you’ll need a way to identify the people who need your stuff.

Does Purchase Intent Exist in Social Media?

For most digital marketers, purchase intent doesn’t pop into their head when talking about social media. Not a lot of people are buying stuff on Facebook, after all.

So, can you really detect if a social media user is in the market for something you sell?

The short answer is, YES. Purchase intent exists in social media, and it can be tapped to capture leads, to attract high quality traffic and to grow your business.

Don’t believe it’s there?  Try our free Customer Search Engine for Social Media  to view a live stream of people complaining about their allergies, shopping for a car, discussing their mortgage needs, hungry for pizza and discussing their college applications.

The truth is that purchase intent is discussed by people in social media millions of times a day in the English speaking world. We know, because we measure it.

But in social media, people express many forms of intent that go beyond the specific, personal intent that you see in search engine queries.  The breadth of intent expressed in social media is vast.

Social intent ranges from the aspirational

to the downright actionable:

In fact, some forms of purchase intent are only expressed in a social environment. For example, when people “fall out of love” with their phone company, they don’t first signal it by searching for a competitor.

Instead, they complain out loud:

Some view this wide range of intent as a weakness of social media, but I think it represents a unique opportunity for savvy marketers.  Because the range of intent is so diverse, content marketing can be used to guide people in their decision making process at many more engagement points than you can touch in other media.

To act upon these streams of intent, you just need a way to differentiate the various types of demand so the right team members can address each of them (cough). That’s one of the reasons we built NeedTagger.

But most marketers are only beginning to learn how to tap into social intent to build relationships with their market.

Publishing At The Moment Of Need

Social feeds move really fast, so timing your content delivery is important. If you can target people close to their moment of need and help them, then you have a much better shot at getting their business.  This is especially true of people discussing their most important life events in social media.

In fact, I would argue that getting the right content in front of potential customers when they need it most is becoming the single-most important success factor in online marketing. There’s simply too much noise out there, and the amount of online content that people have access to is more than doubling every year.

Today, good timing can mean the difference between getting 0.01% and 50% response rates on the same piece of content. As signal-to-noise continues to fall in your market’s news streams, the importance of timing your delivery will only grow.

Targeting Intent With Helpful Content Delivers Results

You can achieve amazing results by targeting social intent with the right content at the right time.

By helping people in their moment of need, you can not only capture new leads – you can create incredibly high levels of brand loyalty at a very low cost per prospect. At the very least, you will drive highly qualified traffic to your web properties.

For example, here is an example of someone posting an intent-targeted message inside NeedTagger, our Customer Search Engine for Social Media:

And here is a Pinterest gallery we put together showing how business marketers use NeedTagger to connect with prospects on Twitter.

pinterest gallery of marketers connecting with sales prospects on Twitter

pinterest gallery of marketers connecting with sales prospects on Twitter

Using this simple listen-and-respond process a few minutes each day, our customers achieve 5% to 80% click through rates on messages sent from our service to people who do not yet follow them.  In other words, unsolicited posts.

Other social intent-targeting platforms such as Solariat, LocalResponse and GoChime are reporting similar levels of engagement with intent-targeted messages.

In contrast, when you post a message from your Twitter account to your followers, about 1-2% of your fans will engage.

Once you learn how to talk to prospective customers in social media, the help you deliver can feel like serendipity to the people you reach.

Even better, when you behave this way in a viral, public forum like Twitter, you gain the added benefit of appearing to the world that you are a business who cares.  Because you do!

In summary, targeting people in need with your content is a powerful and natural way to capture leads, drive traffic and build your brand in social media. 

Does purchase intent exist in social media? and, can it be mined for leads and sales like search engine queries can?

For most marketers, purchase intent doesn’t pop into their head when talking about social media. Not a lot of people are buying stuff on Facebook, after all.

But the fact is, actionable purchase intent is expressed in social media tens of millions of times a day.  We know this is true, because we measure it.  Here are a few examples, with their monthly mention volumes:

150 million Twitter leads per month

Want more proof?

Then try our free Customer Search Engine for Social Media  and browse through the thousands of people complaining about their allergies, hungry for pizza or having issues with their college applications today.  We offer 70 pre-tested streams that can give you a feel for how widespread this opportunity is.

Here are two examples of what NeedTagger “customer opportunity streams” look like:

People complaining about issues with their computers – perfect for an IT services provider or a security software publisher:

Needs We Detect - People experiencing problems with their computer

People complaining about aches and pains (and in need of a massage, it appears):

Needs We Detect - People complaining about aches and pains

It’s clear that many of these people may be open to meeting people or businesses that could help them during their moment of need.

What’s missing is a simple, methodical way to connect all of these people in need with the people and organizations who can help them.  (cough)

Social Intent is Different than Search

The type of purchase intent expressed in social media is different than the type you see on a search engine in several ways.

First of all, the topics discussed are different. Really private stuff you might be quite comfortable looking for on Google may not be discussed as often on Twitter.  This includes private matters such as divorce, sexual preference and behavior, and unpopular political and racial biases. That said, it never ceases to amaze me how much private stuff some people are willing to share about their life, friends and family.

Second, the types of expressions that people are willing to make are different due to the conversational / public nature of social media. For example, in social media you’ll see a lot of complaining about an issue, asking for and sharing opinions, brainstorming and commenting, and requesting help on a topic – stuff you don’t typically see in search engine queries.

A third big difference is the sheer variety of social media posts that may indicate purchase intent. There’s a lot of implied intent, for example – this is stuff people say that clearly indicates they are in the market, but they aren’t being that explicit about their buying plans.  For example, “I just tore my anterior ligament” is a pretty good indicator that, “I need an orthopedic specialist”. Or, “I just got a new job in Phoenix!” is a reliable indicator that this person will be shopping for their next cable or satellite TV provider soon.

Social purchase intent ranges from the purely aspirational

to the downright actionable:

Some view these differences as a weakness of social media when it comes to signalling buyer behavior. But I disagree.

While there is some truth that you can’t just tweet and land a sale, social intent presents a unique competitive opportunity for savvy marketers who understand the non-linear nature of online customer behavior today. You just need a way to isolate the posts that matter (cough) and to learn how to engage when it’s appropriate.

Better than Search (in some ways)

In some ways, social purchase intent is actually better than search intent.

For starters, consider that some forms of purchase intent are only expressed in a social environment. For example, when people “fall out of love” with their phone company, they don’t usually signal it by searching for a competitor.

Instead, they complain in public:

You aren’t going to catch that sort of response in a search engine!

AT&T, if you are monitoring Twitter for the posts above, then you have a chance to turn the situation around. If you are Verizon, then you’ve identified a potential new account. Who’s gonna act first?

Capture Leads, Acquire New Customers – and Sell

So can you really connect with prospects, generate leads, land new accounts and sell stuff by mining social media for people in need?

Yes, you can.

For example, Marketo uses Twitter to generate leads at a fraction of the cost of traditional lead gen methods.  

NeedTagger customers do this all the time.  Listed below are four recent examples of NeedTagger customers who’ve done it.   All of these are unsolicited comments, copied from Twitter.

SaaS provider finds new prospects Using NeedTagger

SaaS provider finds new prospects Using NeedTagger

Using NeedTagger, this social media services provider landed several new clients.

Using NeedTagger, this social media services provider landed several new clients.

Using NeedTagger, this specialty beauty products supplier connected with potential customers.

Using NeedTagger, this specialty beauty products supplier connected with potential customers.

Using NeedTagger, she landed 4 new accounts

Using NeedTagger, Tracey landed 4 new accounts. By talking about her success on Twitter, she generated another lead.  The public nature of Twitter has its advantages.

Great for Lead Nurturing, Too

Social intent can also be tapped to handle middle-of-the-funnel lead nurturing.

Responding to people requesting help or opinions with quality online content is a natural way to guide people in their decision making process.

Copied below is an example of lead nurturing taken from a customer of ours who sells social media management services – note how he’s helping someone solve a technical problem, building goodwill in the process:

Screen Shot 2012-10-29 at 12.51.02 PM

Using social media in this way, you can reach more people at more engagement points than in other media.

You can also learn a lot about why people like or dislike your offerings, and how people talk about your brand.  Try getting that from a Search Engine.

A Greenfield Opportunity

But perhaps the most important advantage of tapping into this new river of social purchase intent is the fact that most marketers have not learned how to take advantage of it.

recent survey by Gleanster revealed that the vast majority of Top Performing Marketing organizations are focused on identifying purchase intention in social media.

Top Performing companies that rank monitoring social data for purchase intent as a priority

Top Performing companies that rank monitoring social data for purchase intent as a priority. Source: Gleanster.com, Feb 2013.

 

Yet Gleanster’s report also noted that only 6% of top performing marketers are actually measuring purchase intent in social media.

who measures purchase intent - survey of top performers by Gleanster

who measures purchase intent – survey of top performers by Gleanster, Feb 2013

People, this is what’s known as a “greenfield opportunity”.

Game On!

By analyzing Google search queries, it is pretty clear that during the past few years, businesses have become increasingly interested in generating leads and sales from social media.  In the Google Trends chart below, note how “Twitter leads” and “Twitter sales” queries are increasing in popularity faster than “lead generation”:

NeedTagger surfaces the most valuable and actionable engagement opportunities for your business on Twitter, and making it easy for you to capture leads, land new accounts and sell.

I don’t know about you, but most of my money is spent with companies that I probably won’t *ever* follow on Facebook or Twitter, long term. I’ll make an exception for a deal, but then I’m cancelling that connection.

The numbers show that I am not alone. According to a recent Edison Research survey, only one-third of social media users have followed a brand.

At a high level, this reluctance make a lot of sense. Who has time to read everything that companies publish?  Why would we?

My “No-Follow” List – And Why Your Brand Is On It

Did you know that Google classifies URLs shared on Twitter as “no-follow” links? This means when someone shares your content on Twitter, it doesn’t impact your search engine ranking (much).

nofollow

I classify brand/company social media accounts in the same way – either I will follow you online, or I won’t.

In other words, I have a personal “no-follow” list, and the majority of brands that touch my life are on it. My list doesn’t change that often.

One reason I don’t follow many brands is that I need their stuff rarely or only occasionally. I just don’t think about them until I need ’em again. This explains why I don’t follow brands that sell me stuff like furniture, health care, insurance, houses and vacations.

Another reason I won’t follow your brand is that I don’t have enough time to follow and engage with every brand that touches my life. Who does? For this reason, most of the merchants that sell me the little things I need every day, like groceries, gasoline and dry cleaning are on my “no-follow list”. I see them every few days, anyway.

My refusal to follow all of the brands that touch my life presents an enormous competitive challenge for marketers who want my attention.

The harsh reality is that most of the brands I do business with will never convince me to follow them. Nothing they do – publish interesting content, present great deals or become friends with my friends – is going to convince me to follow them – or even look at their posts.  I don’t have that much spare time, dude.

As social media marketing professionals, it is vital that we acknowledge the existence of personal “no-follow” lists and adopt new ways to reach prospective customers who just don’t care enough to follow us on Facebook (cue the violins…).

What Is Your Brand’s ‘Direct Social Reach’?

In digital marketing, metrics are key.

So let’s put a number on the “no-follow” issue for your brand. We’ll call it, “direct social reach”.

Direct social reach is the percentage of your socially active target market that follows your account or page online. This is not the same as “social reach”, which typically includes the friends of your followers who occasionally see your posts.

To calculate your direct social reach, divide the number of followers for your account by the estimated number of potential customers currently using the network.

For example,

Direct Social Reach on Twitter =  No. of Followers  /  Est. Size of Target Market Using Twitter  x  100%

What figure did you come up with for your account? 5%? 1%?

90 pct dont follow you online

Don’t feel bad if your direct social reach is in the mid-single digits. You’re not alone.

It might surprise you to learn that even the most successful, beloved global consumer brands like Coca Cola and Starbucks have so far been unable to recruit more than 10% of their addressable market on Twitter (see chart prepared by us, below) and other social networks.

Put another way, after several years of trying, more than 90% of their addressable market on Twitter doesn’t engage with them there!

If it’s growth you’re chasing this year, then it looks like you have your work cut out for you. There are really only two choices available today for getting past your market’s “no-follow” lists.

Alternative 1: Social Ads

Buying ads on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is a scalable way to reach a lot of prospective customers who don’t follow you.

But social ads are expensive and in general do not perform very well in terms of engagement. To be fair, it’s early days with social ads. But it’s also fair to say that the jury is out as to whether you can capture significant leads or sales using social advertising campaigns.

Alternative 2: Direct Marketing

Another emerging way to acquire customers in social media is to find and market directly to people who may not follow you, but who are expressing interest in and discussing needs you can meet. Not by advertising, but by reaching out and initiating a one-to-one relationship with a qualified prospect.

What we are talking about is intent-based direct marketing in social media. This is a new solution space with several small firms testing various ways to accomplish this.

At NeedTagger, we think that direct marketing is the next logical step for social media marketers who are struggling to reach their target audience using current techniques.

Here’s why we say this:

  • Lots of untapped demand.   Millions of social media users talk about their commercial and personal needs every day.  This occurs in every industry, B2B and B2C.  On Twitter alone, there are over 200 million opportunities every month to engage, assist and connect with people who need something.
  • It works!   Our customers see double-digit click through rates on messages sent to people who do not follow their accounts (5% to 80%, actually).  Other intent marketing providers report similar results.

To acquire new customers in social media in this way, you need to do four things well:

  1. Craft high-quality solution-oriented content (not infotainment) that meets your market’s personal and professional needs:  your content should address the basic needs that your organization and your products satisfy for real customers in the real world.  That said, if you can do this in an entertaining fashion, then go for it.
  2. Find potential customers who need your help.  You’ll need good data mining technology to do this well.  That’s what we do.
  3. Share your content with prospects as close to their moment of need as possible.  Tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck were designed for this.  We can help, too.
  4. Learn how to engage and talk to people who don’t (or won’t) follow your account.  Plenty of businesses market this way today. There are best practices all over the internet to help you learn. Check out our blog post, 10 Ways to Introduce Yourself to a Prospect, for a short list of proven tactics.

By marketing directly to people who may actually need your business right now, you’ll build brand equity with your audience for being helpful and capture new leads and sales in the process.  It will take time to generate results, however: people need time to get to know you.

This is a completely acceptable use of public social networks like Twitter, and it’s done by many people today (including our 1,400 customers).

That said, not many brands are doing this type of personal direct marketing in a formal, systemic manner. And that’s a pity, because many front-line personnel are perfectly equipped do this type of marketing (it’s a very natural behavior), if only they had the training. This is the type of marketing that the whole company can do, together.

Let’s see if 2013 can be the year that we stop trying so hard to be the life of the party and start communicating in ways that are more relevant and helpful to our customers.