Social media can allow small businesses to compete with bigger companies in their industry – opening up opportunities to interact with customers and monitor discussion about their products and services in the process.

So, how can small businesses use social media to generate leads?

1. Invest time and money in a social media dashboard
Linking your social media accounts up to an online dashboard will allow you to manage your social media from a single location, making the process far more efficient on your time and also a lot easier to gain a good appreciation of conversations happening on each social platform.

You can also setup keyword search ‘streams’ in your social media dashboard that will filter all social discussion to focus on specific terms of interest for your business. For example if you run a local coffee shop, you could set up a search stream for users including the words ‘feeling tired’ in their social posts. You can then join the conversation and offer them their first coffee free of charge. You might just secure a valuable long-term customer all for the cost of a simple tweet.

For successful social media marketing, you may want to investigate dashboards such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social, with starter prices for Hootsuite a particular draw for small businesses looking to dip their toes into the world of social media.

2. Custom audience advertising
The power of Facebook for generating leads for your business is one that is too good to ignore. Facebook’s custom audience tool sits within Facebook’s advertising functionality, allowing Facebook business page owners to upload their company’s email database of contacts and potential leads and target them accordingly.

Got a lead that needs a little push to turn them into a fully paid customer? You might want to try uploading your contacts database into Facebook and target some messaging directly to them. This also ensures that your ads reach a highly targeted audience and minimises wasted clicks from irrelevant recipients in the process.

3. Lookalike audience advertising
Facebook custom audiences isn’t just great for contacting your existing email database, it also allows you to create ‘lookalike’ audiences based on that database – giving you a whole new audience to target your advertising towards.

Lookalike audiences are created when Facebook looks at the likes, interests and general persona of your existing email contacts to generate a group of other Facebook users with similar interests and profiles. The next step is to target your messaging and advertising towards those users to open up a whole new opportunity for lead generation and social engagement.

4. Facebook and Twitter retargeting
Facebook and Twitter retargeting allows you to recapture the attention of people who have already visited your website. It works by dropping a cookie on the device used by a visitor to your website, so that next time they login to Facebook or Twitter, they will see have been added to your retargeting list in each social medium’s advertising platform and your ads will be displayed to them accordingly.

Using Facebook and Twitter retargeting gives you the opportunity to be highly focused with your social advertising, meaning that clicks and impressions on your ads will be from a list of ‘warm’ leads that have already interacted with your business online in the past.

5. LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to build connections and engage in conversation with key influencers in your industry. Bring the conversation to you by creating a LinkedIn group to discuss pressing topics and trends about the industry you specialise in.

Is your company an expert in providing products and services for a very specific industry or niche for example? Creating a LinkedIn group where your company acts as a facilitator of discussion will allow you to position yourself as a trusted source of information. This can only stand to assist in your efforts in developing sales leads for your business.

6. Google+ Hangouts
You might have a brand new service that you want to shout about, or simply want to be seen as the ‘go-to-guys’ for information on a certain topic. Holding a Google+ Hangout allows you to invite up to ten individual customers/leads to join you in a discussion and presentation about a particular topic.

If you pitch your Google+ Hangout as an exclusive event for your target audience to gain valuable (free of charge) insight into a subject/service that will benefit their business, then you are almost guaranteed to garner interest.

Use Google+ Hangouts as a way to get in front of multiple ‘warm’ leads at once, highlighting your key offering and how it can help their business, without the need for multiple sit down meetings. This has the potential to save you and your target audience both time and money, while accelerating the lead generation process.

To find out more about Google+ Hangouts, click here.

Are there any other tips you would give for small businesses looking build leads through social media activity? We’d love to hear from you and will share all tips with our community. Simply tweet

@Flexioffices on Twitter to join the conversation.

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