How to gain clients and customers through social media engagement

How many times have you read a blog or an article that tells you you’ll get clients or customers through social media engagement? I’ve read a ton – but unfortunately most of them define engagement as reaching out to people on social media without really explaining how to do it.

So in painful detail, I’m going to explain step by step exactly how to engage with people on social media and convert them from a retweet to a client or customer.

Oh, and don’t forget to download your Social Media Engagement Tracking Template You’ll need it.

Engage on two fronts

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, every business should be going after the same two types of people on social media – prospects and influencers. Prospects are your leads – the people who would buy your product or service. Connecting with them is the ultimate goal, but you can’t do it without a network of influencers, who are people, brands, publications and other outlets who have influence in your space. You need them to build your credibility and spread your message to get your prospects excited about what you can offer.

This dual focus is crucial for an effective social media engagement strategy. Not just your engagement, but your messaging should cater to both these audiences. Think of prospects and influencers as the peanut butter and jelly of your engagement strategy – you can’t have the iconic sandwich without both condiments in place.

Determine where your audience wants to engage

Not all social networks are created equal, and not all social networks pull in the same results for one business over the next. Every business is different, every industry is different, and every social audience is different.

Not only that, but every person is multifaceted. For example, I’m a social media consultant by profession, but I have a personal life outside of my professional. If you want to sell me the latest social media tools, your best bet is to reach me on LinkedIn or Twitter. But if you want to sell me your spring sundress line, you’ll have better luck getting my attention on Pinterest or Facebook. It’s important to not just consider who your audience is, but where in their life you fit in.

Before you start engagement on every network you’re active on, take some time to watch how your demographic treats that network. Are they having conversations with other brands? If so, what do they want to talk about?

You’ll never be able to convince someone to have a conversation on a platform they’re not comfortable talking on, but you will be able to insert yourself organically into existing conversations. Your audience is talking – I promise you that – but the golden ticket is figuring out where.

Actually build relationships

Here’s the part where most other bloggers gloss over. It’s the part where they tell you to have meaningful conversations with prospects on social media, and then move on. Instead, I’m going to share my secrets.

It starts with the definition of a conversation, and the fact that the definition won’t change regardless of whether these conversations happen in person or online. So imagine for a second that you’re at an in-person networking event. You’re not going to walk up to someone and say, “Hi, do you want to buy what I’m selling?”

That doesn’t work in person, and it won’t work online. Instead, think of the natural arc of a conversation when you’re meeting someone for the first time in a business setting:
•Hello, I’m Kiera. I’m a social media consultant. (introduction)
•What do you do? (show interest in them)
•That’s great! Follow up question? (getting to know them by continuing to show interest)
•Interesting. Have you tried X? (show that you can provide value by giving away advice for free)
•Let’s set up a time to get coffee and talk about how we can help each other. (call to action)

If you translate that to social media, it really doesn’t look that different.
•Introduction – Sharing someone’s content or posts on your social channels, commenting on something they’ve posted, and/or asking them a question about what they do or something they’ve shared on social.
•Show interest – Unfortunately, unlike in a face-to-face conversation (typically), some of these people may ignore your outreach efforts. But that’s ok – on social media you have the opportunity to start dozens of conversations every day. If someone doesn’t respond to you, at least you won’t waste your time. However, when someone does respond to you, that’s your cue to show interest in them by asking them a question about what they do, what they’re interested in, or something they’ve posted.
•Provide value – Now that you’ve gotten to know each other a little bit, prove your worth by sharing a relevant article, resource or advice with them. Not only will this build your credibility, it will also show that you genuinely want to help.
•Call to action – Now that you’ve properly introduced yourself, you can think about taking that next step. What that step is, is up to you! Maybe it’s downloading gated content so that they’re on your email list. Maybe it’s sharing your content on their channels. Maybe it’s setting up a phone call or a coffee meeting. Maybe it’s arranging a demo or getting feedback on your product. Or, if you feel it’s appropriate, maybe it’s even a direct sale.

Treat social media engagement as a sales funnel

Here’s where social media really differs from an in-person conversation. While the above transaction would take about 5 minutes at a networking event, it could take several days over social media.

On the flip side, at a networking event you can only have one conversation at a time. And you can only have them for the duration of the event. On social media, you can have dozens of conversations at once, and you can have them at any time, no matter where you are.

So, instead of thinking of social media as conversations, think of it as a funnel, with the goal being to prep each prospect to be ready to accept your call-to-action.

It’s important to keep track of where each prospect is in the funnel, so that you can move them along efficiently. The first tab of your Social Media Engagement Tracking Template will help you track who you’re engaging with and where they are in the funnel.

Engage with people who engage with you

Your best prospects are the people who are already engaging with and following you. If people like, favorite, share or retweet something you posted – it’s their way of coming over to say “hi” in a crowded room. When you’re looking to push people through the funnel, this is where you should start.

You can use tools like SocialBro,, Twtrland and Twitonomy to segment your Twitter followers by interest, biography and activities to find prospects and influencers who are already following or engaging with you.

Fanpage Karma and Quintly can help you find these people on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Create Twitter lists of people you want to engage with to keep track of all of your options and opportunities.

Set a schedule

Engagement can be overwhelming – especially when you’re doing it across multiple channels with multiple prospects and influencers. Set a realistic schedule for how much you’re going to engage and on which channels for each day of the week. Once you see it all laid out, it will feel a lot more manageable!

The second tab in your Social Media Engagement Tracking Template shares a sample weekly social media engagement schedule.

Figure out what’s working

Social media is anything but an exact science, with social media engagement being even less predictable. When you’re just getting started, you should be varying your messaging, your networks, your prospecting techniques and your overall strategy to get your foot in the door everywhere. Then, track your results. What’s working? What holds people’s interests? Who’s responding?

You should be constantly revising your social media engagement strategy based on the feedback you get when you engage. With just a few weeks of data, you’ll be shocked at how much your ROI will grow!
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Kiera Stein

My name is Kiera Stein, and I’m an independent social media and digital marketing consultant. Up until the summer of 2014, I was the Social Strategies Manager at CARE, a global, poverty-fighting organization with an emphasis on the empowerment of women and girls. Now, I’ve decided to go it alone as an independent social media and digital marketing consultant. I’m having a blast growing Dog-Eared Social from an industry blog to a consulting business, and hope you will join me along for the ride. I will keep you posted on my progress here and on my social networks. Read more about what I can do for your brand on the services section of my website or contact me directly at

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