Listening For Leads: 3 Key Conversations On Social Networks

By Jenny Vance, President, LeadJen

Companies spend a lot of time generating and nurturing new leads when they may be overlooking a major source of ready-to-act buyers: social media.

Channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are buzzing with conversations in which prospects are indicating a need for products or services. By listening to the conversations and responding in a timely way, companies can significantly boost their leads.

People talk. A lot.

The volume of conversations on social media channels is mind numbing. People send about 300 million tweets a day and Facebook has 845 million active users. It makes sense then that some of these conversations will include a need for a product or service.

A company that manufactures a medical device for a certain kind of hysterectomy was surprised to find an average of 914 daily instances in which women are using social media channels to request information the company can provide. That’s 914 women raising their hands as prospects each day.

Conversations that indicate a need typically come in three forms:

1. Brand mentions offer an opportunity to engage with existing customers to further propagate positive mentions and immediately respond to negative mentions, building awareness and customer loyalty.

2. Mentions sharing negative comments about competitors’ products or services on social media channels are opportunities for you to win new customers and gain market share.

3. Point-in-time-need mentions are the best opportunities to engage with qualified prospects who are actively looking for a solution to an identified need.

Spend time developing keywords

To identify prospects, it’s important to carefully select and monitor keywords and then follow up with good content in a timely manner.

Developing good keywords to help you listen isn’t difficult, but it does take planning and testing.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the shorter your keyword list, the more meaningless responses you’ll get. When developing keywords, be as specific as possible. Spend time to understand boolean operators and advance operators. Both will help you refine your keyword search.

For example, using the keyword “hysterectomy” returned results for pharmaceuticals, off-shore drug manufacturers and other results the medical device manufacturer didn’t want. Using boolean operators to exclude terms like “buy cheap,” helped zone in on the conversations that were important. A guide to boolean operators can be found at http://www.internettutorials.net/boolean.asp.

Plan your responses

Once your keywords are identified, plan how you will respond to conversations.

A hard sell approach will be considered intrusive by most people. A better approach is to point prospects to content that addresses a need. For example, a white paper, webinar or coupon.

To protect the brand and drive efficiency, group potential scenarios and develop approved messages in advance.

Also decide in advance if you will use a branded or non-branded response. A branded response comes from a company or product, a non-branded response comes from a personal account. Most companies choose branded responses for compliance reasons, but there may be times when a non-branded approach is best.

Staff the position appropriately

One of the biggest challenges in staffing a social media lead generation program is flexibility. Social media is a world of immediate response, yet social media volume can change from day to day. It’s important to have enough staff to respond quickly (within the hour) but with the ability to ratchet down staff during slower times.

For this reason, outsourcing can be very attractive. An outsourced partner may also have the technology and experience you need to build the right keyword strategy and monitor results.

Regardless of whether you handle social media responses in-house or you outsource it, look for people who have good business acumen, can make quick and appropriate decisions, and have impeccable written skills.

Measure and refine

Develop a system to measure responses. Decide in advance what’s important to measure. This can include clicks on links sent in messages, Facebook likes, email opt-ins, responses back or coupon redemption.

Don’t be afraid to test different strategies and messages to determine what works best with your prospects, then refine your responses to get the best results.

Finally, track how long it takes to close a sale. Since social media prospects already have a need, you should require less time to educate them, and therefore see quicker sales.

Jenny Vance is president of LeadJen, Inc., a B2B lead generation company that helps sales and marketing executives get value out of every prospecting call. She can be reached on Twitter @JennyVanceIndy or by email at jenny@leadjen.com .

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