Published On: Sat, May 3rd, 2014

An Introduction to Social Prospecting

Social SellingI’m not convinced that significant numbers of people want to make purchases while using social media – but that doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be utilised during other stages of the marketing funnel.

In fact, the nature of social networks, with the easy flow of communication and the detailed level of information that people share, means they are a rich source of intelligence that can help you identify prospects.

When you couple this opportunity with the fact that key decision makers and CEOs expect their social media usage to treble in the coming years, you can begin to see more clearly just how social can be used for prospecting. SalesForce, Eloqua (now part of Oracle) and HubSpot are three companies which have responded to this trend by including social prospecting software within their CRM solutions.

Before we go any further, I must admit that social prospecting is an area that I’m keen to learn more about  and raise awareness of – that’s why you’ll notice this post contains content that is mostly curated from other sources.

So lets get started on social prospecting…

What is social prospecting?

While many disagree over the precise wording, HubSpot’s definition of social prospecting is as good as any. They describe social prospecting as “leveraging your social brand to fill your pipeline with the right people, insights and relationships.”

Why is social prospecting important?

LinkedIn have just released an excellent study (complete with fantastic promotional content – here’s the infographic, landing page and white paper) into how senior decision makers use social. They found that social buyers are:

  • High influence – 84% of social buyers make purchases for their entire company, business unit, or multiple departments. Only 56% of buyers who don’t use social have that level of purchasing influence.
  • Large budgets – social buyers spend $356K per purchase on average, 84% more than other B2B buyers.
  • Frequent purchases – social buyers make 19.8 purchasing decisions each year, 61% more than other B2B buyers.

What do social prospects want?

Despite the perception that social media is dominated by lolcats, photos of people’s lunch and keyboard warriors, trolling away, there is also a lot of business taking place. The LinkedIn study found that to be in with a chance of gaining that business you need two elements:

  • Trust – 65% of social buyers consider it critical to check the references of vendors with their colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. Senior decision makers benefit most from the increased trust and confidence found by tapping their professional networks.
  • Recommendations – 73% of social buyers prefer to work with sales professionals who are referred by someone they know. Senior decision makers use LinkedIn to seek recommendations from trusted peers and verify the expertise of the professionals with whom they do business.

How to approach social prospects?

LinkedIn also advises businesses to complete three steps to prepare you for social prospecting:

  • Increase social proximity – 44% of social buyers found potential vendors by looking at shared connections on LinkedIn. Grow social networks, engage with influencers, and contribute to conversations.
  • Increase social presence – 49% of social buyers researched vendors by looking at their LinkedIn profiles. Ensure your profile is accurate, information-rich, and service oriented. Approach other members with a “warm” introduction.
  • Build social capital – 63% of of social buyers appreciate being contacted by vendors at the right time with relevant opportunities. Take note of insights on members’ profiles and networks to understand their needs and interests.

How do you create a social prospecting strategy?

This is a more complex question and clearly there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. However, HubSpot recently presented the 3 C’s of Social Selling webinar – it’s well worth a watch and the strategy they recommend, which you can adapt is based on the following:

  • Context –
    • Create a professional brand
    • Find the right people
    • Engage with insights
    • Build strong relationships
  • Content –
    • Add value first
    • Collaborate with sales
    • Join the conversation
    • Create a content engine
    • Define a service level agreement (SLA)
  • Collaboration –
    • Work together to help customers
    • Build audience personas
    • Identify your buyer persona
    • Collect content ideas
    • Share marketing plans and ideas
    • Share tools

Want to learn more about social prospecting? Stay tuned. In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing some free tools and useful tips to help your prospecting efforts.

About the Author

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Marketing Manager with a passion for inbound at HubSpot, Founder of Growth Hack Talks, Blogger at Ben-Cotton.com and Chief Quaffer at CraftySwine.org .

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