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How to find customers on Twitter

twitter-iconIf used correctly, Twitter can be an amazing tool for outreach.  The ability to essentially see what people are thinking and doing, and then jump in and interact with them is amazingly powerful.  You need to be cautious, of course, but you can find a lot of potential customers on Twitter.

Dave Kerpen recently shared an amazing story on his LinkedIn page.  While waiting in a long line at a hotel in Vegas, he tweeted his frustration about the situation.  Another local hotel replied with nothing more than some sympathy: Sorry about your bad experience, Dave. Hope the rest of your stay in Vegas goes well.

The next time Dave was in Vegas he went to the other hotel instead, and the tweet snowballed into nearly $10,000 in business for that hotel.

The plumbing company

I shared a similar story about a local plumbing company a few years ago.  I was tweeting about a frustrating experience, they replied with some sympathy, and the next time I needed a plumber they were the first ones I called.

The key is to reach out to people without being pushy, and to be persistent in reaching out.  I’m guessing that both the hotel and the plumbing company send out a lot of tweets that go unanswered, or at least don’t bring in any business.  In either case, though, if they had said “Use us instead!” it would have been a major turn off and ended poorly for them.  Instead, they simply showed that they care by engaging in conversation and then left the decision up to the consumer.

How do you find them?

The other key in both cases was that these companies were actively searching twitter for people to reach out to.  Twitter has a very powerful search feature, though it can be a bit confusing.  Here are a few tips:

Use “near:”

By including “near:city” in your tweet, you can narrow it down to a particular geographic area.  In the case of the plumbing company I mentioned above, they probably used a search similar to “plumber near:atlanta”.  Using a tool such as HootSuite, you can set up multiple columns with various search phrases to monitor throughout the day.

Negative keywords

Similar to Google, you can put a minus sign (-) in front of a word to essentially say “don’t show me tweets that include this word”.  For example, maybe you wanted to see people talking about Atlanta, but the Braves were playing right then.  Search for “atlanta -braves” to find people talking about Atlanta but not using the word “braves”.

Filter links

You can use the phrase “filter:links” to only show tweets that include links in them.  I like to combine with the previous item and include “-filter:links” in my search queries; only show me tweets that do not have a link in them.  Those are more likely to be genuine thoughts rather than spam.  A good example of this is when I’m looking for people that are having problems with WordPress.  I’ll search for “wordpress”, a question mark, and get rid of links, leading to “wordpress ? -filter:links”.  If some random tweets keep coming with the same thing in them, I’ll toss a few more negative keywords on the end to keep the list smaller and easier to manage.

Find yours

Now find some good phrases for your business.  I was working with a local printing shop a few weeks ago, and they found a new customer very quickly by searching for “embroidery near:12345” (but with their zip code).  The intention was to simply start some conversations, but the first tweet they found was someone saying “Does anyone know a local company that does embroidery on t-shirts?”.  It was great!

Think of some keywords related to your business, perhaps add a location parameter to your search, and dig in!  Keep the conversation light, don’t push for the sale, build some relationships, and hopefully grow your business!

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Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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  1. i really like this concept. i need to start thinking about phrases that would help me in terms of business growth. but i’m curious, are you also adding in hashtags or anything like that? or just referencing certain companies? are these people you also follow?

    • I don’t tend to put hashtags in unless I have a good reason to (such as following the stream from an event). If someone uses the hashtag “#wordpress”, a normal search for “wordpress” will find it.

      I sometimes follow people that I find this way, if we get a discussion going and they seem to post useful information.

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