There are a lot of advertising and customer acquisition channels you can use to get people to come to your website and become customers. But have you ever considered going to them? 

There are nearly 4 billion active social media users worldwide as of 2019. That’s a lot of potential customers you can reach.

Why is social media so popular?

Social media connects us to a community and makes it easy:

  • To share GIFS
  • To share life updates
  • To stay in touch with long-distance friends
  • To find answers to shared questions
  • To follow updates from favorite brands

Yes, all of that. But you can also use it to get more customers.

This is called social prospecting. It’s a free, easy way to connect to more people that your business can help.

This post will cover:

  • What is social prospecting – and how does it work?
  • 5 tips for social prospecting

What is social prospecting – and how does it work?

Social prospecting is the practice of using social media platforms to find, research and interact with prospective new customers.

Where can you find prospects?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Quora
  • YouTube
  • Reddit

Pretty much any social media platform you can think of. Odds are, the prospective customers you’re looking for will be there.

How does social prospecting work?

  1. Define your ideal customer. Who are they? Where do they look for answers?
  2. Determine which social media platforms they use. (Hint: it’s probably more than 1)
  3. Search for keywords and topics relevant to your business
  4. Scroll through the posts and comments to find relevant conversations that you can join
  5. Jump in and answer questions or give background knowledge
  6. Create new connections with potential customers through those conversations

There’s a reason why people on social media are posting or commenting – they need answers to questions. Build brand awareness and thought leadership by answering them!

5 tips for social prospecting

What are some best practices for social prospecting? Follow these 5 tips for successful social media prospecting:

  1. Be timely in your outreach
  2. Personalization is key…up to a point
  3. Always be testing
  4. Less is more
  5. Leverage third-party tools to help

1. Be timely in your outreach

People don’t post on your schedule and here’s no set frequency for how often you should be looking for prospects on social media. It’s an ongoing process — when you see something relevant, say something!

Is there a benefit to waiting a minute to respond? Yes, but…

Don’t reach out to anyone beyond a week after their online interaction. Try to respond within a couple of days of a post. The rule of thumb here is sooner rather than later.

You can respond in a couple of ways:

  1. Comment on the post in question
  2. Go to the poster’s website contact page and send a direct message

Sometimes emailing a potential prospect directly through their website is better. It helps cut through the noise of other replies and make a more personal connection.

Timing is everything. The longer you wait to reply to a post, the less likely someone is to see it.

But, sometimes it’s better to wait until the comment chatter has quieted before you join the conversation. When a post is made, multiple agencies might be replying all at once Waiting for the rush to die down can ensure that your reply doesn’t get lost in the crowd.

2. Personalization is key…up to a point

Personalization is great in social outreach, but don’t get carried away. There’s a balance between time spent personalizing a message and responding soon enough to make an impact.

Create a template that can still be personalized to save time on outreach.

Tools can help to make your social outreach personalization quick and efficient:

  • Gmail canned response is a template that you can modify and send quickly. But be careful! It’s easy to send a template with the wrong name to the wrong person, so double-check before you hit ‘Send.’
  • TextExpander lets you add different email copy templates as shortcuts that you can personalize before sending.
  • Vidyard Personalized Video helps you create 1:1 personalized video messages for your social prospects. Amnesty International Canada used personalized video and saw an 83% click-through-rate.

Personalize your social prospecting outreach with video marketing tools like Vidyard. (Source)

3. Always be testing

Even if you have a template that works, it’s best practice to tweak your approach and test different emails. This helps you to create multiple email outreach templates that work.

Also, test how you find people on social media. Use different keywords in the search functions. You might find people who are asking questions you can answer that don’t know who you are.

Don’t just wait to find people who have problems, be proactive about what you’re doing. Share it online and let people come to you, too!

4. Less is more

It’s better to have a smaller group of people that fit your target audience characteristics than to reach a wider group of people who are less of a match.

There’s no shortage of dissatisfied people that flock to social media on a daily basis to complain about their current services. If you try to find people who match the characteristics of your ideal customer, your social prospecting conversions will be more successful.

Narrow your target audience down and filter by:

  • Geographic location
  • Influencers and topics they follow
  • Facebook interests

Narrow your focus. If you go after everyone, your efforts will be less effective.

5. Leverage third-party social prospecting tools to help

Finding and retaining your customers requires a lot of attention. There’s only so much time during the day to commit to social prospecting, and there are millions of people posting to social media across the world at every second.

Good news – you don’t have to keep track of it all yourself (and you shouldn’t).

To make the most of your social prospecting efforts (and get time back to do other things you need to do), leverage third-party tools to be an extra set of social media eyes.

TweetDeck is a great tool for social prospecting.

TweetDeck organizes your Twitter view into multiple views, all in one accessible place. (Source)

TweetDeck lets you see multiple streams on Twitter at the same time. Gone are the days of searching one word at a time.

With TweetDeck, you can monitor Twitter for conversations about:

  • Your company
  • Your competitors
  • Trending topics in your industry

Social media is a crowded space, and you can make your social media prospecting efforts easier with third-party tech tools.

Social prospecting: FAQs

1. How do you choose keywords to search on social media platforms?

Keywords come down to the types of problems you know you can address, as well as the things your competitors are doing.

If someone is using a competitor’s service and having a problem with it, they might post about their issues online. Use Google or keyword research tools like Moz to find the terms people use to describe the problem. Then use those terms in your social media searches.

The Moz keyword research tool. You can also use free methods like Google incognito search and look at the list of related searches.

When someone goes to social media with a problem, it’s not the first time they are talking about it. They’re at the tipping point, and that’s where you can join the conversation and offer help. Most of the time it’s a positive response. At worst, there’s no response.

2. Can social prospecting work if you hate using social media or don’t have it?

No, you don’t have to be a social media maven or have your own personal accounts to get usefulness out of this strategy. You can create accounts for business purposes, and learn the basics of social media posting with online resources.