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NMOA Direct Marketing Article
Use Social Networking Sites to Create Relationships With Your Potential Customers
By Phyllis Zimbler Miller

Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn provide small-to-large size businesses the opportunity to connect with potential customers at online sites where these potential customers "hang out."

And besides the opportunity to participate in these general communities, you can drill down to more specific online communities. For example, if you're selling books by mail, you can join a number of book-focused online communities, such as

What are the pros and cons of spending time on such online activities?

The only con and this is not really a con is that successful participation in online communities requires investing time and effort in a consistent online social media plan. If you or someone else in your company doesn't have the time and knowledge to develop and implement such a strategy, you will need to pay for outside help.

The pros let me count the ways: You could spend money on ads in newspapers and magazines trying to attract your target markets (who often skip right over the ads). Or you could spend money on online ads (and again your target markets can ignore these ads).

Then there's the opportunity to interact online at no charge with people who are interested in what you have to offer.

Let's take Twitter and an imaginary scenario. You sell badminton sets to schools and individuals. You join Twitter and set up an effective Twitter profile. (For the links to four blog posts that provide information on doing this, see

Then you use the Twitter search function and look for #badminton. (The # is called a hash tag on Twitter and denotes a topic.) I just did this and, sure enough, there are tweets (Twitter's term for updates) on this topic. And now you can engage in conversation on Twitter with the people who are tweeting about badminton.

("Engaging in conversations" means answering questions and discussing topics related to your brand or business.) (See Examples Below)

If you share worthwhile information on Twitter and on your company website about badminton, you are developing an online relationship with potential badminton set buyers. And when these people are ready to buy a badminton set for their school or family, they'll probably think of you rather than of an impersonal website with whom they have no relationship.

Now it's true that some businesses immediately "take" to this new method of engaging potential customers, while other businesses may have a harder time adjusting to sharing information first and selling second.

What's important is to realize that this evolution in selling is here to stay, and the sooner your business jumps on the bandwagon, the sooner you have the advantage over your competitors who haven't yet adapted.

Step up to the plate now and start learning how to swing your social media strategy out of the park.

Engaging in Conversations on Twitter

While many of your tweets will be "general broadcasts" (such as: Just finished reading the terrific how-to LinkedIn book RockTheWorld by Mike O'Neil), your tweets can also be directed to someone by the simple step of including that person's Twitter username in your tweet preceded by the @.

Here's an example:

Let's say @MillerMosaicLLC tweets: @ZimblerMiller Are you going to be at the tweetup in LA today?

Then I tweet back: @MillerMosaicLLC Yes, I'm planning to attend. Hope to see you there.

Both these tweets are in the public stream that can be seen by anyone. But I have put a specific username in the tweet to ensure that this tweet goes into the reply box of @MillerMosaicLLC.

This use of @MillerMosaicLLC is important because we can't see all the tweets that go through our stream. So we routinely check our replies in order to see what tweets have been addressed to us specifically. (The reply box is found on your home page; mine says: @ZimblerMiller meaning those tweets that are addressed to @ZimblerMiller)

FYI I use to alert me when someone uses Phyllis Zimbler Miller in a tweet. This use of my full name wouldn't be picked up in my reply box, and it's important to know who is talking about you.

Now another reply example:

If I tweet this general question: What kind of badminton racket is best for a 10-year-old?

And you see this tweet and can answer the question, you would tweet: @ZimblerMiller The best kind of racket is ..........

Because you put my username in the tweet, I will be sure to see your reply when I check my replies.

And then, following Twitter etiquette, I would tweet you back using your Twitter username and thank you for the information. You could then see this reply in your reply box.

In my opinion the best part of engaging in conversation on Twitter? People are limited to 140 characters per tweet, so they have to learn to write succinctly rather than going on and on in an email.

About the Author:
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the Twitter marketing expert at If you liked this article, you'll love her company's FREE report on "How to Become a Twitter Marketing Expert" claim your report now from

Follow me at and engage in conversation with me.


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