I just read an article by Lisa Barone in Small Business Trends titled, “How Does Social Media Aid Lead Generation?” The article lists five reasons it accomplishes exactly that, but what I like most about the article are the surveys she quotes.

“According to a May survey by virtual events provider Unisfair, 66 percent of respondents said lead generation is their greatest concern for 2010. The findings seem to match R2integrated’s April survey that found 61 percent of respondents were after lead generation, as well as HubSpot’s report that Twitter usage could double monthly leads for small businesses.”

Finally a business reason to use social media? Could it be it’s not a colossal waste of time? To hear me talk about using social media to grow your business is not new, so today I list five ideas for using social media for lead generation.

1. LinkedIn. Do you have a list of five to 10 companies you’d REALLY like to work with? If not, do that exercise right now. Just list three to five and do it in five minutes or less. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Great. Now go into LinkedIn and type in the first company name in the search bar. Make sure you click on “companies search” because it’s automatically set on “people search.” Click on the company name and scroll through current and recent employees. Is there anyone listed that is two or three separations from you? Likely there is more than one person. Click on a name and see who you know in common. Then call that person and ask if he/she wouldn’t mind introducing you to the person at your target company. It’s an automatic referral into the company you’re dying to work!

2. Twitter search. This is in Lisa’s article and I 150% agree with it, so I’m copying and pasting directly what she says. “Stop what you’re doing and go to Twitter Search. Click on the Advanced Search option (or just click that link) and create a saved search designed to pick up ‘sitting ducks’. For example, if you’re a local mechanic, you may want to set up a search for [brake job], [car inspection] or [oil change]. Set the distance for 25 miles from your place of business and then save the search. Now any time someone in your local area tweets about needing a brake job, a car inspection, or an oil change, you’ll be notified. And then you can reach out to that person. You can also create searches for you competitors and try to steal those conversions away.”

3. Read, read, read. My own Google Reader stares at me daily and I sometimes have to just hit the “mark all as read” button, but it’s true that the more you read, the more ideas you are able to capture that then fester into content, new products, new services, or campaigns. To make things easy for you, I bookmark tons of articles in Delicious and you can cheat off me. Go to the Arment Dietrich page and search the tags. You can find articles on social media policies, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare, and a myriad of other topics. Then, take the articles you think your prospects will find interesting and send them links. This shows you’re thinking about them and their business, without being self-serving.

4. Twitter Application. If you’ve heard me speak, you know the story of how I became a Hertz customer, after being in the Avis platinum club for nearly 15 years. Long story, short, I tweeted Avis when I needed a car reservation extended and their customer service wouldn’t help, but I never heard from them. Hertz, however, tweeted me and not only helped, but gave me discounts and put me in their Gold Club…for free. The question I always get is, “How did Hertz know how to find you?” Open TweetDeck (if you don’t already use it, download it now – it’s free) and click on the big gray + sign at the top (add column).  A box opens and the first in the list is “search.” If it’s not already checked, click on it and, in the white bar, type a competitor’s name, and hit “search.” Now a column pops up and anytime that competitor is mentioned on Twitter, your column is automatically populated. Hertz likely had a search for “Avis” or “WeTryHarder” and saw my request for help. You don’t have to be a big company to use this tool; I use it for competitors, for the industry, for my own name and company name, and for all of our clients.

5. Google Alerts. Do  I sound like a broken record yet? I know this is what I always say, but I’m always surprised when I speak and ask, “Who has Google alerts set up?” and only one or two people raise their hands. DO THIS NOW! This is not an option. It is the one thing everyone should have for their business, for their name, for key employees, for competitors, and for the industry.

Do you use social media for lead generation? Which tools would you add?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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