Earlier this week I had a chance to talk with a bunch of Realtors about how they might consider using Social Media and digital tools to sell more houses. During the course of the talk I mentioned how social media helps them to painlessly prospect. A few seemed to take the idea to heart and I thought I'd expand on it here as the whole concept, painless prospecting, is relevant to lots of folks who read this blog. And while this post is written with the realtor in mind, I'll take a chance here and there to more clearly explain how the same concept applies to us non-realtors.
I showed them how you can use Twitter Search to help you monitor folks using keywords or making statements that might indicate that person is a candidate for your services. In this instance, we searched "Moving to New Orleans" and talked about how it is ok to simply follow folks that use that phrase. Don't talk @ them yet or even expect them to follow you back, many won't, but by following them, they'll get an email notifying them, which will make them aware of you and your offering. If you're doing a good job in your Twitter stream (being helpful, not looking like 'that guy' and appearing to be a real person and not a real jerk) then likely, and especially if they're truly in the market for your service, you'll get a follow back. Here again, that's not an invite to start selling, but if you're a realtor it's a great opp to start sharing great houses you're selling or touring - which you should be doing anyway. If they see something they like, they'll let you know. As for the rest of us, the same simple principle applies. Be out there, be helpful and folks will take you up on the offer now and then. Do it enough, and you can build a nice little stream of prospects that without requiring a lot of work on your part.
Blogging is a great tool to prospect. Sure it takes a good bit of time and you do have to reach out and drive traffic to your blog via places like Twitter, cross posting on relevant aggregating sites for your industry, and making sure you show up in places like Digg, Reddit and others. But probably the single best reason to blog from a prospecting perspective is that Google loves blogs. They are keyword rich, constantly updated content that (if done well) usually result in a good number of in-bound links... all things Google likes. And that is where the painless piece comes in... a good blog has a far better chance of showing up in a keyword search on Google. So, as I showed these realtors, when I searched "New Orleans Real Estate Agents" I got a bunch of broker listings (Remax, etc) and only a single realtor site showed up. This same effect holds true for other industries -- you just have to make sure you're blogging strategically and thinking about things like URL naming conventions, keywords, etc. These Google searches can be prospects that would otherwise never find you.
Riffing off the blogging approach, we talked a bit about how to use Facebook. Now if you're someone or a brand that expects to have over 5,000 "friends," then you need to create a Fan Page as Facebook has this crazy 5,000 friend rule. BUT, if you don't anticipate having that many, I'd suggest you just use a regular profile page. Why? Because while Fan Pages can have a lot of fans, you really don't get access to some of the really good stuff like their stream, and things like their birthday. If you are their friend, then you get to see that stuff. And if you're a realtor, seeing the birthdays of all of your prospects/clients is a great way to make sure you touch each and every one of them at least once a year with a personal message. But many of the realtors in attendance worried about combining friends/clients in a single Facebook account. So we talked a bit about how I do that -- and how a blog is a great tool for making this approach work. You see, Facebook will let you cross post your blog entries to your Facebook profile. So each time I write a post, it automatically pushes to my Facebook. It's very obvious in the update that I haven't typed anything, it's just feeding. And you know what, I've never had any friends get upset about it. In fact, a lot of them read my blog from Facebook -- even folks that I'd never think would care to do so. The point is, every couple of days, all my friends are quietly reminded that I'm in marketing, social media, advertising and while they may not be in a place to hire me now or ever, they might know someone that is or know of a great speaking opp at a conference or something and send those folks my name. If you're a realtor, using your blog this way allows you to remind all your friends (who very well could be your clients one day or refer business to you) that you're a realtor and even see the houses you're listing or touring. It's like the web 2.0 version of the yard sign. And if you're worried about them seeing that crazy picture of you in Vegas... well just set your privacy features and use lists. Really pretty easy to create that Chinese wall in your life.
And that's the point of all this social media stuff. By being out there, sharing great stuff, you're communicating, connecting and all that...but you're also prospecting. People are seeing your stuff and more importantly forming opinions about the type of person you are and that is the first step to doing business with anyone: you have to get them to like you and then trust you. And that's the point of painless prospecting.. it's a fun way to get folks to like you and trust you by doing stuff that frankly, you're already doing. Only now you're using all these great digital tools to cast that net wider and farther than you ever could before.
Now I'm sure there are lots of other great examples of using Social Media as a painless prospecting tool that I'm forgetting at this late hour... so maybe you'll help by tossing a few thoughts/examples out in the comments section? I'm sure everyone would really appreciate it. And who knows, maybe you'll cultivate a prospect or two? Just saying.