Guest post: A guide to prospecting for new customers on Twitter

tweeting

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The following is a guest post by Matt Carter. His bio is at the end.

Entrepreneurs and marketers are constantly searching for new sources of prospective customers to grow our businesses. Today I’m going to introduce you to one such source; I’m going to show you how to use social media monitoring as a prospecting technique.

Your potential customers are out on Twitter; a lot of people sign on to the site from all over the world, and some of them want to buy your product and services!

The basic idea behind prospecting on Twitter

Twitter is a big, active, public forum for online conversations. People go on to talk about everything in their daily life. What I’m most interested in are peoples’ posts about their buying decisions—tweets like:

  • “For a vacuum. Would you recommend eureka or bissell?” (@bethjune327 on May 12, 2014)
  • “but seriously where can I buy Venus fly traps / exotic flowers?????” (@aaliya_bernal on May 15, 2014)
  • “I have a job interview tomorrow .. Anyone know where I can rent a tuxedo?” (@lukebennett9 on April 13, 2014)

The basic idea of social media monitoring on Twitter is to search for tweets by prospective customers. You start out with a small list of keywords—a keyword portfolio—that serves as a net for tweets. Over time, you build a bigger and bigger keyword net that you check regularly.

It’s a bit like shopping at the mall. Sometimes you’ll hover around a rack of clothes for a while, and then you’ll get a question about one of the items. The service reps at the store are trained to constantly ask prospective customers who look like they have any questions. In social media monitoring, you’re the service rep looking for customers to help out. However, in social media monitoring, the questions are searchable!

Twitter is my preferred social media channel for prospecting, though you really could use any other. Why not Facebook, LinkedIn, or Tumblr? I prefer prospecting on Twitter because it is much more searchable than any other social network. Because it was founded as a predominantly mobile platform, its tweets are concise—this makes it easier to browse through.

What keywords should you search for on Twitter?

People searching for product recommendations. The best kind of tweet to search for is a customer who is most likely to buy. When customers ask for product recommendations or post product recommendations, they’re qualifying themselves as warm leads. You know that they are not just browsing. They’re asking for recommendations because they intend to purchase something. Quick—you want to catch them before they’ve made their decision!

Here are a couple of keywords that I’ve found useful in discovering tweets about product recommendations:

  • “recommend <product/service>”
  • “anyone <product/service>”
  • “need <product/service>”
  • “where <product/service>”
  • “where buy <product/service>
  • “find <product/service>”
  • “looking for <product/service>” – “tweeps <product/service>(people often use “tweeps” when they have a question to ask the public Twitter”)
  • “<city> <product/service>”

People asking questions that your typical customers typically ask. They’re just browsing right now, and gathering the kinds of information needed to make a decision. They could be ready to buy right now, or may be months away from buying. These leads are not as hot as customers searching for product recommendations, but are valuable nonetheless:

  • Customers looking for wedding florists might ask about: “popular styles of wedding bouquets” (search for “wedding bouquet”)
  • Customers buying a suit might ask: “what is the difference between a wool and cotton suit?” (search for “wool cotton”, “wool”, “cotton”)
  • Customers looking to print online might ask: “what is the difference between uncoated and matte paper?” (search for “uncoated matte”, “uncoated”, and “matte”)
  • Customers looking to buy headphones might ask “what are supra­aural headphones?” (search for “supra­aural” and related categories like “circumaural”, “open­back”)
  • Customers who might buy a bartending book might ask “what kinds of different drinks can I make with Tequila?” (search for “what drinks tequila” and related ingredients like “what drinks gin”, etc.)

Think laterally to come up with keywords that yield relevant tweets. Think about what questions customers typically ask you when they ask you or your customer service team. Go back a few steps and think about how you can branch out to new keywords from the ones you already have (see the last 2 examples above about headphones and cocktails.)

What do you do once you’ve found the tweets?

Qualify the lead to check if you actually want to respond to it. You should respond to as many tweets as you can, but you should also observe some courtesy and etiquette. Actually try to understand what the user wants—is it a product recommendation, customer service question, or is it totally unrelated? This leads me to my next point.

Respond with something that brings value to them. Once you’ve thought about what they want, respond with this insight. If they’re looking for a recommendation, say something along the lines of “Hey @exampleuser – ­I hear what you have to say, and we have exactly what you’re looking for—check us out at !” But don’t respond this way to every single tweet. Every tweet is subtly different. The more you speak to their needs, the deeper the connection you make.

You should consider responding to them, even if they’re in a different city. One of the things that trips up small businesses is that they find a lot tweets of potential customers in different cities; and they can’t sell to them. However, you should still consider responding to their questions. You may not be able to sell to them, but a few seconds of your time will mean that they get their questions answered by a professional. It costs you a little time, and who knows what you might get from it! (Maybe they know someone in your town that they might refer over, or an online user might find and share your tweet!)

Be friendly, be personal. Use the etiquette you use in your daily life—at coffee shops, malls, and at work. People usually don’t mind when you say, “Hey, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. I have a few thoughts that you might find interesting.” On the other hand, people do mind when you sound like you’re treating them like an animal you’re trying to force feed by trying to sell them something that they don’t need!

In fact, you might take the opportunity to take it further. Your social media prospecting might occasionally allow you to strike up a longer conversation with people—this is a classic sales technique. If you can’t sell to someone that day, sell them on your personality. If they like you, they’re more likely to come back to you or recommend you next time they might need your services.

A tip to help you search Twitter quickly and efficiently

Create a folder with bookmarked searches. After you type a search into Twitter and press enter, bookmark that web address into a folder. Do this for the other search phrases you use. Then, every morning that you want to check your Twitter keyword net: just right click on the folder, and click “Open all links”. This will save you the time of having to remember and re­type all the keywords that you have.

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Step 1: Bookmark the URL after you type in the search query

twitter2

Step 2: Collect all the Twitter search URL’s into one folder

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Step 3: To check your “keyword net”, right­click the bookmark folder and click “Open All…”

A few final thoughts about prospecting on Twitter

Remember, you’re building a net. Over time, you want to be creating a bigger net by adding in good search keywords—keywords that yield a lot of fresh tweets from customers that might buy from you. And you want to remove keywords that are less relevant—these waste your precious time and dilute your efforts. After you build a solid keyword net on Twitter, you take what you learned and try it out on other social networks, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, etc!

And lastly, a quick word about expectations. Depending on your industry, and whether you’re local/national, the amount of activity you see from searching on Twitter will vary. If you’re a small business, it can feel like there is little or no activity online.

But here’s the way I like to look at social media monitoring. It’s akin to flipping open the newspaper every morning. It’s something that you should be able to scan through in 4 or 5 minutes to see if there’s anything worth checking out. Respond to the tweets that might be relevant, and get on with the rest of your day!

And, give yourself some time to build out the reach of your keyword net! It takes time to build out and curate your portfolio, and you’ll catch more fish across the Internet. Every lead counts because the awareness and the sales really add up if you’re persistent enough. If you do it right, it’s like checking your nets every morning to see if you have any easy catches for the day!

Matt Carter is an Internet Marketer based in San Diego, CA. You can read his marketing blog at MGX Mindshare.

Comments

    • says

      My pleasure, Ryan! 

      I think it’s important that people see that Twitter can be used for finding actual customers, not just finding “followers” for the purpose of having followers.

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