Social Media Marketing Methods That Get ResultsMost small business owners realize the potential of social media as an effective, affordable way to build their brand and drive sales leads.  But with so many options available, deciding which will get the best, most immediate results can be difficult. Here are four simple ways to generate more sales leads using social media.

How to Identify Your Audience

Social media is all about engagement.  Unfortunately, many people simply use it to broadcast their message instead of listening to others. Granted, there’s a lot of mindless chatter out there, but if you target your listening you’re likely to find qualified, motivated buyers for your products or services.

Twitter search is a great tool for targeting your listening. Millions of people turn to Twitter for advice, referrals and help with a variety of problems each and every day.

Using the search bar located in the upper left-hand corner of the Twitter home page, simply search for terms and phrases related to your business. Users who have used those words in their tweets will appear in the search results.

How to Segment Your Audience

One of the great things about social media is its global reach. For many small local businesses, however, this broad reach can be a problem. And most businesses, local or not, offer a variety of products and services that don’t necessarily appeal to their entire customer base. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to segment your business communications using social media?  Now you can.

Last June, Google launched its own social sharing network, Google+. The new platform is not the search giant’s first foray into social media. In February of 2010, Google rolled out Google Buzz to less-than-rave reviews. However, Google+ offers new features that were not available in Buzz – features that many Facebook users have been pleading for, for years.

One such feature is “Circles”. Google+ allows users to build smaller communities within their social network. Communications can then be sent to contacts within a specific circle, multiple circles or the entire Google+ network.

Google+ circles provide small business owners the ability to tailor their business communications for specific audiences, for instance prospects and existing customers as well as subsets of these groups. This more targeted approach can lead to higher customer satisfaction and more sales.

How to Use LinkedIn for B2B Prospecting

All the recent hype about Facebook and Twitter has caused many small business owners to overlook the potential of LinkedIn – the original social network specifically designed for business.  LinkedIn is the ideal platform for B2B businesses.

As of January of this year, LinkedIn boasted 101 million users from such diverse business sectors as construction, manufacturing, the arts, service industries and many more. But how can LinkedIn be used for sales prospecting? Here are two highly effective methods.

LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Answers

LinkedIn Groups are similar to Google+ circles in that they allow you to target your business communications to the most appropriate audience. Simply log in to LinkedIn and enter a keyword or phrase related to your business into the search bar. Next, select “Groups” from the dropdown menu.

Once you join a group, you can join the conversation and, most likely, connect with people in search of your products or services.

LinkedIn Answers works the same way as LinkedIn Groups and has even greater potential for sales because, instead of general discussions on a topic, LinkedIn answers displays actual questions from users in search of solutions to their business problems.

Consistency is the key to being successful with LinkedIn Group discussions and Answers, so it’s a good idea to monitor them on a daily basis.  Once you engage in a discussion or provide an answer, be sure to stay engaged or run the risk of appearing flighty and unreliable. You should also be careful not to appear too pushy.

Remember, people turn to Group Discussions and Answers for information – not necessarily to be sold something.  As with all social media, the aim should be to provide value to those you engage with. Over time, the sales will follow.

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