Learning about Clients and Prospects through the Social Media

It is the second decade of the twenty first century. Direct contact with friends, family, clients, and prospects is becoming increasingly limited. We screen our calls as others screen the calls we make to them. We leave voice messages in the hope that not only those we are calling check their voicemail in a timely manner, but that they will deem our message worthy of a response. We send e-mails with no knowledge of if or when they’re opened. We make posts on people’s walls and wonder  afterwards if we were clear enough in indicating that we would like them to comment on it. And we tweet to our friends and colleagues and strangers trying to convey a greeting, a message, and a call to action in 140 characters or less. So, the question is how do we cope with this increasingly acceptable lack of contact with people, especially when doing business.

Well, there are a couple of approaches, one of which may actually be helpful. The first option is complain. Complain to your family. Complain to your friends. Complain to the world through your blog. Complain to anyone who is willing to listen about how society is crumbling because new technologies are making people aloof, impolite, and socially inept. And if you choose this option, some of your points might be valid, and some are probably a bit batty. But, regardless, unless you are preparing for a career as a professor of sociology or philosophy, your raving is not going to get you anywhere.

Your other choice is not only to live with these changes, but to use them to your advantage. For example, how valuable would you consider information on a client or prospect that included their educational and work backgrounds, interests and hobbies, favorite sports teams, political and religious affiliations, favorite charities, tastes in music (one of the best conversational topics for building rapport with someone new), as well as, in psychological terms, indicators of how open they are to new experiences, their level of conscientiousness, and whether they are introverted or extraverted. Many people would consider such a source of information to be a goldmine. And what many of them don’t know is that a lot of people directly give this information away for free when they post it on their Facebook page, or indirectly reveal it through their status updates, wall posts, conversations with friends, and their photos.

Another valuable source of information, which is also an excellent way to cope with not knowing if or when someone opened your e-mail, are services such as Constant Contact, which allow you to put together newsletters, and other messages such as holiday greetings and thank you cards, and send them to hundreds or even thousands of e-mail addresses that you’ve collected over the years through doing business with people, working trade shows, holding seminars, and just meeting strangers. Then, once you send the e-mail, you can track, among other things, who opened it, how many times they opened it, when they opened it, what links they clicked on, and how many times they clicked on those links. This information can later be used by you to indicate who might be interested in which of your products, services, or other content. And, depending on your current level of familiarity with them, you might even want to give some of your more interested contacts a call, or casually bring up what you saw caught their eye the next time you see them, and ask if they would like to discuss any of the content with you further.

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