5 Ways to Use Social Listening to Improve Sales

By Features PCmag

Many organizations employ social listening tools to track customer sentiment across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. While these companies are doing their due diligence to determine what people are saying and how they are feeling about products, services, and executives, they're not leveraging these tools to turn casual comments into hard cash. Instead, they're tracking sentiment, monitoring influencers, and building demographics reports, all of which can be incredibly useful for long-term planning.

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However, social listening can also deliver incredible and immediate value to sales teams by providing real-time opportunities to sell goods and services to customers directly through their preferred method of social communications. For example, let's say a customer posts something on Twitter about wanting new shoes. With social listening enabled, you can immediately contact that customer on Twitter with an opportunity to purchase your company's sandals. This tactic can even work for business-to-business (B2B) sales; if your competitor's top client posts a rant on Facebook about poor customer service, then you can swoop in and introduce yourself [and your superior customer relationship management (CRM) practices].

I spoke with Matthew Zito, Chief Strategy Officer, at PCMag Editors' Choice social listening platform Synthesio about the best ways to take advantage of social intelligence for direct selling. The following are five opportunities you should look out for when you're trolling social networks for sales.

1. Direct Mentions
As I mentioned earlier, consumers and enterprise customers have made a habit of tweeting out their wish for specific new products and services. If someone mentions your brand by name, then you should determine whether or not this is an appropriate opportunity to send a link to a product or service, or to introduce yourself to the potential customer. If it is, go for the kill. After all, wouldn't you want a discount code or instant access to a product or service for which you recently professed desire?

"A good social listening platform should be able to help you identify purchase intent and desire," Zito said. "This is a really easy, 101-level use-case of finding people who are talking about my product or my brand and expressing desire. That's clearly someone who is interested in buying or thinking hard about the purchase. That's a great way to interact with them."

However, Zito cautions against sending messages to customers with whom you've never interacted or customers who didn't make a direct appeal for your product. "There's a very fine line you have to be careful about," he said. "If you're too in the moment and there is no existing relationship with the person, it can come across as creepy and intrusive If you already have a relationship with them, it's okay to reach out to them because there's an established relationship. Just reaching out in the moment can come across as creepy unless it's handled gracefully."

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2. Find People Looking for Advice
Social media is full of individuals and groups who are looking for advice about which products to buy or which services to use. If you can find one of these individuals or groups, you can send them a link to a product landing page, or to informational materials about your products, in order to sway them. Again, it's important to be considerate of how the conversation is progressing and where the conversation is occurring; you don't want to seem intrusive or desperate but you want to make it clear that you're there to solve a problem.

"People look to social to solicit feedback from their friends," Zito said. "If you can, look for those people. That's a great opportunity to politely insert yourself into the conversation."

3. Poach Customers from Competitors
If your main opponent is getting trashed on Facebook by customers, this might be a good time to jump in and introduce your products and services. Whether consumers are complaining about the products, the prices, or the service, you can take this opportunity to make a case for why these customers should be working with you instead of your rival.

"We [at Synthesio] do that," Zito said. "We see someone complain about a competitor and one of our salespeople will reach out. In that case, particularly when someone's tweeting at a competitor and saying a product is garbage, it's okay to reach out casually once."

4. See Where They're Going
If you know customers are attending events that you're attending or sponsoring, you should reach out to set up a one-to-one meeting. This is especially true for business-to-business trade shows. By monitoring customer feeds, competitor feeds, trade show feeds, and your own feed, you'll be able to locate customers and prospects that will be at the same event as you, and you'll be able to gently nudge them into grabbing lunch or a drink during the event.

"In the enterprise space, a decision-maker is always getting hit up by different competitors," Zito explained, "and by looking at the things they say you can gather valuable intelligence about what they're doing. Will decision-makers be at a trade show? Will consumers be at a show you're sponsoring? The beauty of social listening is that the information is publicly available, so you can gather information on prospects and customers for new or upsell opportunities."

5. Target Groups With Direct Response Ads
If there's a group of people on social media who are focused on discussing products and services similar to yours, you should buy an ad from the social network that enables you to target this group. These ads should feature direct response triggers that allow customers to make an instant purchase or to set up a meeting with your sales team.

You don't want to use this ad to provide additional branding or for content marketing; these people are probably already familiar with your product or service (from their conversations in the group), so it's best to make a direct sales appeal right from the ad. "This is potentially equally effective to sending them each direct messages but it's much less intrusive," Zito said.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.