In last Monday’s post, I said I’d offer up some tips for finding your customers online. Following are three broad suggestions to get you started in your quest to find your customers online. Since the tools each network provides change often, I’ll focus less on the how-to and more on why these suggestions will help you. Also, I’ll confine the suggestions to Twitter and LinkedIn because of space limitations.
During the sign-up process of most social networks, you are offered the opportunity to search your existing contact lists for folks who are already members of the network. Both LinkedIn and Twitter offer to search for contacts within the email address with which you signed up. I suggest you not do this during the sign-up process; but instead circle back and utilize the tools once you know a bit more about the specific network and have set up your profile.
Connecting on Twitter: When you are logged in to Twitter, you will find a box on your home page in the left hand column titled “Who to follow.” At the bottom of that box is a link “Find friends.” When you click on that link, you will see all of the options shown in the image below to find your friends using the tools built into Twitter.
At this point I suggest exporting your company contact list and then importing it into a free email account like Gmail that you set up specifically for this purpose. You’ll never use this email account to send or receive email; only to import contacts into services like Twitter and Linkedin. You’ll also be able to use the account with multiple services.
After that, just let the social network’s tool walk you through the process. Most of the networks will highlight those folks who already have accounts. Those are the ones to concentrate on for now. Scroll through the list and manually select between 25 and 100 contacts. I suggest avoiding the “add all” option because social networks become harder to work with the more people you are following. Add small numbers of people more frequently so you can watch that group of folks and see how active they are.
Connecting on LinkedIn: LinkedIn has a similar tool that is covered quite well in my friend Wayne Breitbarth’s “The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success” (Amazon Affiliate Link) on page 89.
Network search tools
While the “suggested people” tools are great for finding current contacts, what if you are trying to find additional contacts at a company with which you already do business or one with which you want to do business in the future? For this type of task you are going to need a network with advanced search capabilities like LinkedIn’s “Advanced search.”
Searching LinkedIn: To access LinkedIn’s “Advanced search,” look for the search box at the top right of the LinkedIn page when you are logged in. Click on that link and you will unveil one of LinkedIn’s greatest strengths: The ability to search down to the almost microscopic level.
In the example above, you would be looking for all the folks you have some connection to on LinkedIn that work for “ABC Company.” Simply fill that company name in the Company box and search. You should get a long list of people. Connecting on LinkedIn is an art form in and of itself, so here again I recommend Wayne’s book to master those techniques.
Searching Twitter: Advanced search on Twitter is equally powerful but in different ways. Sometimes it’s also difficult to locate the tool, so try here where I was recently able to locate it: https://twitter.com/#!/search-advanced. Explore what happens when you fill in the different fields and the resulting Twitter stream that is displayed. By searching for your largest customer’s company name, you can get a flavor for the conversations that are occurring in the digital space.
Cast a wide net
Some people refer to this as having a large online or social footprint. Whatever you call it, there is a strong argument for being active or semi-active on as many social networks as you can reasonably manage and still get your day-to-day work done. I’m constantly amazed at the number of customers that find me online first; probably as a result of utilizing the find people tools we discussed earlier. If you are on a network early, you have the advantage of everyone who knows you and signs up after seeing you as a suggested user right off the bat.
I’m going to close with a reminder not to forget the “social” in social networks. If you simply go and find your customers online and then don’t engage with them, you’ve really missed the point. Please be part of the conversation and be useful. Being funny sometimes doesn’t hurt either.
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