10 Best Practices for Generating Leads and Sales From Twitter

While NeedTagger was online in 2012-2014, we helped over 7,000 of businesses find and connect with new customers on Twitter.

Along the way, we learned a few things about the right and wrong ways to use Twitter as a customer acquisition channel.

This post summarizes the top 10 best practices (in my opinion) and provides links to examples and other resources that should save you time and help you get better results.

Happy prospecting!


1. Respect the 3 Golden Rules of Social Prospecting, which are:

  • be your authentic, awesome self at all times
  • share helpful information as often as possible
  • don’t sell too much.

Regarding selling too much: offering coupons and deals does work for some product and service categories – as long as the “buying signal” is obvious and strong.

When broadcasting information from your account, don’t send more than a small handful of Call To Action (CTA) messages per day.  CTA messages are posts to a person that directly incite purchasing action from him/her. If you post CTAs more frequently than a few times a day, then your regular followers may view you as spammy.

For all other new business opportunities you find on Twitter, your best strategy is to engage with your prospect as if you just met her at a dinner party or a public event.  That means you should: be friendly; don’t hard-sell; be helpful if you can; share your business card (follow them), and compliment them if you sincerely like what they said (retweet them).

2. Create special-purpose customer prospecting streams for your business

If you want to minimize the amount of time you spend hunting for leads, then you need to learn how to filter Twitter for the types of opportunities you are looking for.

There are many different types of prospecting streams you might setup to mine social media for potential customers.  Some examples include:

  • People explicitly seeking your type of product or service
  • People requesting help and information to solve problems that your company/products/services solve every day
  • People complaining about your competitors’ brands, products and people by name
  • People of a certain job title and/or work for a particular company discussing topics relevant to your business

Depending on how you organize your sales and marketing efforts, you may want to create multiple geo-targeted streams for each of the above, or create one stream for each product family you offer, etc.

So how does one create a “prospecting stream”?

Use the right tools.

Many leading social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite (free version), SproutSocial (free to try), ViralHeat (paid), and SalesForce MarketingCloud (paid) let you to set up persistent keyword-filtered streams that constantly search Twitter for posts containing the keywords that matter to your business.  Some offer location search, as well.

You can also use Twitter Advanced Search or SocialMention.


3. Follow first!

Start every day by scanning your streams and following as many likely customer prospects as you can.

You should follow prospects even if they are not an immediate sales lead.

If they are obviously interested in and discussing your type of product/service, then follow them. Half of them may follow you back.

The reason you want to start your day following potential customers is simple:  if potential customers choose to follow your Twitter account, then you will be able to market to them for FREE on a long term basis.

In addition, you will be able to direct message these prospects with custom offers and use direct messages to answer to sensitive questions not appropriate for public display.

Here are a few things to be careful about when following people on Twitter:

  • Don’t un-follow lots of people right after following them (for example, if they don’t immediately return the favor).  Twitter doesn’t like this behavior and may ban your account for spamming practices.
  • Watch your follower-to-following ratio.  Some people and software tools view a person who follows many more people than follows them a spammer or a low-quality follower.  This is certainly not always true and it won’t get you banned.

4. Master your introductions.

Then re-use the introductions that work.

After market like this for a while, you will notice that a small handful of issues/questions/complaints keep repeating themselves over and over again in your streams, even though they are coming from different people. People are people, after all.

The repeating nature of social intent presents an opportunity to streamline your social prospecting by re-using the intros that work best for each situation, your content and your style.  In other words, there’s no need to custom-craft every outreach message.

To save time, you can save your best messages in tools like HootSuite and reuse them.

Here are a few resources we put together for our customers that will help you make a great first impression:

5. Types of messages you should respond to:

  • People talking about you, your products and your people.  Make sure you include these as keywords in your stream definition.
  • People using a hashtag you invented for your own business or marketing campaign
  • People expressing clear intent or interest in the types of products and services you provide.
  • People asking questions about problems you can help them solve.

6. Types of messages you should not respond to:

  • People talking about unrelated topics
  • People using widely popular hashtags
  • People located where your service is unavailable

7. Use caution when:

  • Two @names are in the message:  this usually means you are interrupting a conversation.
  • People are expressing extreme unhappiness, distress, or anger.  Unless you are truly resolving the root cause of their emotion, you may be entering into an argument.

8. After you send a message, monitor for reactions & replies 

  • Continue the conversation when you get responses, even negative ones. People want to know you’re there.
  • Only use accounts that are actively managed by you or your social media team.
  • Keep your opt-outs obvious and easy

9. Master your use of the @ symbol when formatting messages to send to prospects, as follows:

  • Begin your outreach message with the target’s @name to send it to your target.  Everyone who follows your account will see it, too.
  • Place your target’s @name in the middle of the post so their followers will see it, too.

10. When sending an unsolicited message to someone on Twitter:

  • Be transparent about why you’re responding to them and who you are
  • Provide some value to the recipient in your tweet
  • Use a single Twitter account in your response.
  • Don’t ever use hashtags, marketing slogans or hard sales pitches
  • In the UK, Twitter usage requires having “(ad)” in your copy

We hope this list helps your sales prospecting efforts.  

Best of luck!

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