Nowadays it has become standard practice for brands and businesses to be active on social media. It’s even becoming expected by both clients that your business will be on Facebook or Twitter when they want to find you. Brands and businesses are spending more and more money on their online channels as they start to see the true value of having a presence.

Social media hasn’t always been all about business but it’s quickly become a gold mine for any business who’s looking to drive real business results. The best marketers are looking at social media as a place to gather more quality insights into their customers but also using it to identify the right opportunities to engage and establish a meaningful connection with a potential or existing customer.

A meaningful connection can be many things. It can be an interaction that leads to an existing customer expressing gratitude or it could be an interaction with a prospect that leads to a new customer. It’s the idea of interacting with customers when it’s appropriate and when it’s most relevant to them. We’ve spent a lot of time over the last year better understanding the way businesses interact with customers and the entire customer life cycle. What we’ve found is that people need different types of engagement during different points in the buying cycle.

People who have conversations on social about products or services are what we consider social leads. It’s these people who interact with their followers on Twitter or Facebook to find suggestions on new products and insight on what they should buy. For a business, social leads are individuals who are in the buying process and can be influenced by any form of engagement. If a social lead sends out a tweet asking whether they should switch from one Teleco to the next, it’s beneficial for both of these brands to be listening and ready to engage.

We’re excited about both the opportunity that lies in identifying social leads but also in the intelligence that we can capture surrounding them. Through the combination of marketing research and studying big data, we’ve uncovered a series of insights that will make it easier to have meaningful engagement with social leads. Here are just a few things we’ve found over the last few months that marketers should know before trying to engage:

Brand Awareness Is A Difference Maker
If you’ve been using social media for a while or have already established a strong brand, social leads are likely to respond better. People wan’t to interact with brands and people they’re familiar with so establishing a connection beforehand is definitely a difference maker when approaching a social lead. Social media users have been met with a handful of spam over the last few years and have become hesitant to cold engagement. That said, if you can identify your prospects before they are ready to close a deal, you can build awareness with them and establish a sense of trust that will help you when they reach the buying stage.

But Relevance Wins Every Single Time
At the end of the day, awareness is great but relevance is king. If you can identify a social lead that has a problem that you can fix, you’re a tweet away from having a meaningful interaction. Thousands of people are going to Twitter every single week with complaints, inquiries and messages about their needs. If you’re there to answer them, you not only have the ability to drive new business but also have the opportunity to take business directly out of your competitors hands. Relevance is the difference between the brands who succeed when interacting with social leads and those who fail.

Understand Where Leads Are In The Buying Process
The final part of the puzzle is understanding where your leads are in the buying process. It’s important to recognize if they’re still in the discovery phase or if they are at a point in the buying process where they are ready to buy. In both of these situations, the way you interact with the customer is going to be different. If you’re communicating with someone who is ready to buy, your language might be more aggressive and include a link directly to your product. If you’re communicating with someone who is in the discovery phase, your message might be less aggressive and focus more on the consultation side. That is, you may ask them if there is any preferences they have or ask if there’s anything in particular that matters a lot in their purchase.

All of these different items combine to help marketers better understand how to engage with a social lead. It’s not challenging taking a social lead from discovery to the purchase but it does require some insight and understanding. Too many marketers have jumped on Twitter trying to close a social lead without identifying how relevant their product was to a prospects needs. It’s time to focus on establishing awareness, acting on relevance and understanding the customers buying behaviour.

Once you take these tips and utilize them in the wild, you’ll start to see a shift in how social leads react. You’ll start to see an impact on your brand advocates and a clear indication of the return on your investment.

What do you think? What else should marketers know about social leads?