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. 

Intent Marketing: A New Way To Reach Customers in Social Media by

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