While a majority of professionals have embraced LinkedIn and the value it provides as a tool for networking, sales and marketing, it seems that Twitter can be a harder sell for some entrepreneurs and sales professionals.
For some, highly restrictive company social media policies—coupled with occasional stories of how a single tweet capsized someone's hard-fought career success—result in the potential benefits of joining the Twitterverse being overshadowed by the perceived risks.
To those who feel this way, there are several ways to reap some of the social selling benefits of Twitter without actually creating an account. In fact, there is tremendous untapped value sitting in the sea of Twitter accounts that can be leveraged to increase sales and grow the bottom line, all with no Twitter handle required.
Here are five ways you can tap into those opportunities:
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Gather Intelligence on Sales Targets
There are two prime uses of Twitter: broadcasting information and engaging with other Twitter users. And while there are broad exceptions, corporate Twitter accounts tend to lean toward the former, while personal Twitter accounts focus on the latter.
That's not to say that corporate Twitter accounts don't engage; in fact, the first rule of good corporate social media management is to be prepared to engage and do damage control if and when necessary.
Nevertheless, corporate Twitter accounts are initially established (at least partially) as a method of broadcasting news about the organization while controlling the brand messaging on an "official" newsfeed. Which means that you can know as much—if not more—about what's going on at your socially-adept sales targets as an employee of that company.
Take a look at the Twitter feeds of a few corporate accounts and you'll quickly see that they broadcast frequent and consistent messaging about the things that matter to the company, as well as product announcements that can enable you to better sell to the organization.
Whether they’re expanding operations, launching mobile solutions, promoting charitable giving, or introducing a new partnership, staying abreast of the latest news from your targets can give you an advantage in a competitive marketplace.
Find the Right People at Your Sales Targets
In addition to regularly promoting products, projects and philanthropic concerns, companies frequently announce key hires via press releases that are also pushed out on Twitter. Looking for the new CMO at a target company? Chances are the Twitter feed will have what you're looking for.
But that's just the low-hanging fruit.
One of the best kept secrets of Twitter is that a significant percentage of the followers of many corporate accounts are themselves employees of the organization. This makes sense—especially when first established, employees are encouraged to follow the brand-new corporate Twitter account in an effort to build exposure. And who is more vested in following the news of the company, except perhaps the shareholders?
Using some common Twitter search tools (for example, Topsy and Twiangulate) you can quickly find people who are following key Twitter accounts or who have certain keywords in their profiles, and—viola! Another way to gain intelligence about the people you're likely to meet with on that sales call next week.
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Find Your Sales Targets In the Wild
One of the most valuable tools on Twitter is the hashtag—a shortcut term or phrase preceded by a hash mark or number sign—that sorts all the news on a particular topic into one convenient search result.
As most brands learned early, if you fail to provide a hashtag to the people commenting on your product, performance or event, one may be created for you, and it may not be one that you prefer. Hence the frequency of hashtags appearing in so many commercials, print ads and movie trailers; it makes it easier for the brand to guide those interested in seeing the content while helping to prevent a bad hashtag from trending.
Many conferences do the same thing. If you're attending or speaking at South by Southwest you know to use #SXSW and if you're attending the upcoming salesforce.com conference, chances are you're familiar with #DF15. Once you know who the players are at your target companies you can use this common practice to your advantage.
By either scanning the personal accounts of a target company's employees or looking at announcements from the corporate accounts themselves, you can often find out where your sales targets are either speaking or exhibiting, and then arrange to be at those conferences.
Check out this tweet from @BNYMellon (full disclosure, my former employer) announcing Nadine Chakar’s appearance at Fund Forum as just one example. Since it's often the C-suite and their direct reports who speak at conferences, you can frequently find your decision makers in an environment where a drink in the bar may finally land you that meeting at the corporate headquarters.
Keep Tabs on Your Competitors
Your sales targets aren't the only ones who broadcast corporate initiatives and product announcements for your convenience in keeping tabs on their activities; your competitors are likely doing as much, if not more, to announce their future initiatives and tip their hand on upcoming differentiators.
Announcements about new hires with backgrounds in fashion tipped off analysts and competitors that Apple had begun working on new wearable technologies—which is now the Apple Watch.
Similarly, your competitors are likely announcing new hires to keep their names in the news; regularly checking their Twitter accounts may help you predict future products, but at the very least you'll know when new products are announced.
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Recruit Top Talent
Headhunting for top salespeople is one of the most challenging parts of a sales manager's job, and even a short-term bad hire can cost tens of thousands of dollars in direct expense—plus potentially millions in lost sales opportunities. And with 82 percent of hyper-growth companies reporting in 2014 that social media has resulted in new sales leads, finding people who are fluent in social selling could help fill a desperately-needed gap in your sales team.
In short, just because you aren't active on Twitter doesn't mean the ideal candidate isn't. And if he or she comes with a strong Twitter following, you can simultaneously increase your company's social reach by bringing that person into your organization.
Searching Twitter for hashtags appropriate for your business and finding people engaging on that topic could lead to the perfect candidate for that open sales role. Another approach is to use a search tool like Twellow (which does require a Twitter login) can enable you to search within targeted industries and even within a specific geographic area.