Most marketers have got to grips with the content side of social media. ‘Content marketing’ has become a trendy buzz-phrase and there’s more awareness about creating value-adding, sharable content rather than just ‘advertising’ to your audience on social networks. Whilst more and more companies spend their time and resources on producing an abundance of content across their social media platforms, I rarely see them using the feature of social media that actually generate sales and leads the fastest – the interaction. Let’s have a look at an absolute gem.

Conversation drivers

‘Conversation drivers’ describe a phrase that someone says on Twitter that identifies them as a potential prospect of a particular company. This company can now start a conversation with them directly over Twitter. This is one of the most under-utilised features of the platform but is a great way of finding and interacting with people in your target audience.

Questions you may ask: 1. But isn’t this eavesdropping? 2. Will people mind a brand talking to them? 3. How the hell do I do this?

Answers: 1. Yes, but only with information available in the public domain. 2. They will if you are salesy! Your responses should aim to assist and add value rather than overtly sell. Look to solve someone’s problem or make them smile. And 3. Here’s how…

The first challenge is working out the conversation drivers that specifically apply to your business. Some examples of conversation drivers for specific industries:

* A restaurant could use ‘for a meal’ in their conversation driver searches because people may say, ‘I want to go out for a meal,’ or ‘I’m being taken out for a meal,’ or ‘where shall we go for a meal?’ This restaurant may also serve a particular type of dish, so their customers may discuss ‘Italian food’, ‘tapas’, or ‘pizza’, etc., which means the restaurant should search for these conversation drivers.

* A carpet cleaner may look for the conversation driver ‘spilled drink’ or ‘carpet stain’, as people saying these phrases probably need a carpet cleaner!

* A mobile phone repair service may search ‘broken phone’ or ‘smashed screen’ or ‘dropped phone’.

It’s important to imagine the phrases people will say when they’re in the market for their product or service, and not what they will search – the two are very different. Someone looking to rent a flat in London may Google ‘flats in London’, but they may talk on social media about ‘house hunting’ or ‘relocating’ – a very different approach and nowhere near as formal.

Even the most trivial of conversation drivers could be a precious lead for many companies. The phrase ‘too busy’ may be used in a conversation driver search by a virtual PA organisation, an accountant, a time-management trainer, a hotel with spa facilities, a productivity app or website, and the list goes on.

More examples of conversation drivers might include:

1. ‘New puppy’ identifies someone as a dog owner. A potential target for all types of pet companies including pet shops, dog walkers, dog food companies, kennels, Crufts(!), pet magazine companies and animal charities. More obscurely, they might be in need of carpet or furniture cleaners, maybe air fresheners? How about animal charities? They could need a raincoat or boots for the walks they’ll be embarking on. (Em-BARK-ing.)

2. ‘I’m engaged’ identifies someone in a relationship and soon to be planning a wedding. This person is now a potential target for a whole host of companies including wedding planners, wedding venues, photographers, videographers, florists, chair covers, divorce lawyers(!), etc. Phew, weddings are expensive!

3. ‘The kids’ identifies someone as having children, or at least looking after children. Parents are potential targets for children’s events, theme parks, children’s book companies, nannies, toy shops, independent schools, and so on.

4. ‘Moving offices’ would be a great for insurance companies, commercial removal, office furniture suppliers, stationers and telecoms providers, etc.

These are a few basic examples to encourage you to think of the phrases relevant to your business. Companies of all shapes and sizes, B2B and B2C alike, can use these. You simply have to run searches on Twitter or set up streams on Hootsuite (a must-have social media tool) to begin finding your prospects. Then it’s down to you to start making your approaches. Don’t go straight in for the kill; start a conversation, add them to a list, and strike when the time is right! Use location searches on Twitter or Hootsuite to narrow down your search to people local to you, or within your delivery radius.

It is techniques like this that make Twitter a more targeted and personalised marketing tool than virtually anything else at a marketer's disposal.

By Jodie Cook, MD of JC Social Media

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