A straight-talk guide to selling with social media.

Lead generation with social media is no easy task. Take an honest look back on the life of your company’s social media accounts, and how many new customers truly came through Twitter or Facebook. Likely, not many. If you value your time, you’re likely burning through money by misusing and under-investing in these channels.handshake-300x300

There are several reasons why most companies are stuck in neutral with their social media lead generation, but none more obvious than the fact that they rarely invest in the time it actually takes to find the right prospects. Too often small and medium-sized businesses are told that just by tweeting, or posting to Facebook they’ll reach new audiences. This is simply not true.

Yes, there are thousands of potential customers out there using social media, but they aren’t going to fall in your lap. If you want new customers, you have to go find them. And once you find them you have to relate to them on their terms. Nobody wants to hear a pitch, and nobody wants to feel spammed. There is no way around it – doing this well takes an investment of time, effort, and expertise.

We know you tell your customers that you’re on social media to interact and converse, but let’s be honest. You’re investing there to build your business, and for most, that means generating leads so you can close sales.

You can’t afford to wait while they find you.

Tell me if this sounds familiar – you’ve set up a twitter page, you have a link to it on your webpage, and you try to tweet at least once per week. How’s that working for you? It’s in this first step that the most time is required, because you need to wade your way through a lot of noise to find the qualified prospects.

Here’s an example – let’s say your business sells custom tailoring to men in New York. You’ll need to parse down your audience by geography (New York and surrounding area), age (18+ is a start), and your best estimate of their income. If you do this, you’ll have cleared away 95% of the clutter.

Get the in by blending in.

Of course, your company has a brand and voice all it’s own, but it’s likely coming off as cold and impersonal. By mirroring the conversational way a potential customer interacts with his or her friends, you’ll be more likely to get the lead.

The top social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram – all have instant search tools baked in so you can find out who is talking about your market niche. The trick is to cast a net just wide enough to find enough valid prospects, without catching the waste.

Once you find them, there’s still more work to do. If you’re going to jump into someone else’s conversation and not be dismissed as a spammer, you need to earn it. How? Do your homework. Look at what they’re last few tweets were about, read the last post on their blog, and look at the pictures they’ve been posting. Once you’re armed with this information, you’re ready to finally reach out and start the conversation.

Choose your words carefully.

Hey you’re almost there! You’ve found them, researched them, and are ready to start the conversation. But where to start? Keep it simple. Too much too soon, and you’ll get yourself blocked. Too little, and you’ll be ignored.

It’s here that you can build a rapport by acknowledging that you’ve done your homework, and you get them. They’ll feel like a social media celebrity, and the conversation will flow from there on in.

Don’t forget to close.

Especially if you’re selling a service, you’re going to need to close the sale by phone or email. Don’t expect the potential customer to come right out and ask for pricing or a meeting. Ask for their phone number or email before the conversation has peaked and while interest in you is still high.

Why doesn’t everyone do this?

So, you’ve probably noticed there is a trend here – an investment of time and attention to detail is essential.  Businesses too often find themselves in a downward cycle of social media neglect that starts with getting too busy to interact with supporters, which leads to boring content. Boring content leads to a disengaged audience, and they don’t become customers. And when social media doesn’t drive sales, it doesn’t demand investment. Without investment, you can’t reverse the trend.