The Hows and Whys of Social Prospecting
Marketers looking to cash in on the popularity of social networks for pitching products and services to prospects shouldn’t limit their focus to the leading sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn.
“While these networks are great because they’re expansive and because there’s lots of noise on them, you can oftentimes have more success focusing on niche social networking sites,” said Hoffman, whose firm provides information on consumers who frequent social media sites.
As an example, Hoffman discussed how his firm not long ago worked with an armed services client who was hoping to recruit cadets, specifically targeting blacks. Instead of using the more traditional social networks to get its message out, Rapleaf suggested it use the largest online community for blacks, BlackPlanet.com.
“The client had never even heard of it,” Hoffman said. “But it ended up being an incredibly successful campaign.”
Besides being supertargeted, “the social network was not as well known as other networks, so there wasn’t a lot of noise,” Hoffman said. “The client was able to dominate the site with its messaging.”
There are many niche social networking sites like BlackPlanet.com, and some are even more finely targeted. Flixster, for example, targets young women who like movies, Hoffman pointed out.
Marketing to influencers
A great way to achieve success with social prospecting is to target social network influencers. “They’re people who have a lot of friends online,” Hoffman said. “Some have more than 1,000 Facebook friends or Twitter followers. So since they reach such a large number of people, they’re considered influential.”
And if they talk positively about your products or services, they can help you create buzz and find prospective customers. Once you find influencers online, he noted, you can communicate with them in the following ways:
- move them to the head of the queue on your customer service line so their questions can get answered right away;
- ask them to review new products or services you’re developing, and solicit their feedback; and
- send them handwritten notes or gifts.
Marketing to friends
Marketers traditionally have turned to demographic and psychographic targeting when finding prospects for their products and services. These techniques put consumers into buckets to more easily make assumptions about them. But they lack social/graphic information, which enables marketers to see the purchasing behavior of specific peoples’ friends, Hoffman said.
“People are more like their friends than they like to think,” Hoffman added. “People who are interested in wine tend to hang out with people who also are interested in wine. So if a company is pitching a product, its best prospects are the friends of its current consumers.”
The problem for marketers is knowing whom someone is friends with since few companies have access to the social graph of their consumers. But some companies do have this information: Telecommunication firms know which people often call one another. This is an accurate representation of one's social graph, Hoffman said. Online social networks also have a good idea of whom people know and their relationships.