The free lead generator most of you are ignoring

Social network groups continue to yield qualified leads – ignore them at your peril.

In an attempt to demystify much of this bewildering world we call digital, this blog often looks for traditional predecessors to newer digital marketing techniques.

In most cases, technology simply enhances – often significantly, previous marketing tactics and techniques.

For example, email is literally electronic mail. Websites can be seen a brochure on digital steroids and YouTube just one big video store.

But every now and then a technology emerges to create a completely new and unprecedented way of doing things.


Groups garner prospect gold


A great example of this is social networking special interest ‘groups’ – really an evolution of the online forums which have been with us for decades now.

Of course real world special interest groups have been around as long as civilisation itself as we seek and engage with others who share a common interest wherever our passion lies.

Book clubs, angling clubs, surf lifesaving clubs and fan clubs are all common examples of ‘physical’ special interest groups.

But put these groups within a larger social network and, as digital technology tends to do repeatedly, you get a whole new way of doing things.

Given the difficulty of getting many people in the same place at the same time has always been a challenge for traditional special interest groups.

But social networks mean that you can engage with your fellow enthusiasts pretty much whenever one or both of you is awake. 


Conversations with multiple people simultaneously


And when you do engage, all other members of the group are able to view and/or chime in whenever they like.

For businesses, these groups allow you to not only engage with participants to raise your profile, but be at the coalface of valuable calls for supplier recommendations.

Group participants will often ask fellow members for their recommendations of suppliers or product pertinent to their special interest.

For example, an angling social network group would be nothing less than nirvana for a fishing equipment store. And knitting suppliers would jump hoops to be part of a knitting fraternity. 


Ways to be recommended


This screengrab shows a business operator calling for recommendations for insurance suppliers and its responses within a business group within Facebook.

The wonderful thing about this exchange is that you not only get to promote your business to the original ‘poster’ but to everyone looking on. So that even if you don’t land the business of the original poster, you might grab the attention of one of the other participants.

Better still is that if you are a member of the group, your recommendation can also include a link to your profile such as the one to ‘Tim Allan’ in blue above.

The blue type denotes a link to Tim’s profile. Note that of the other recommendations, Nathan R is not a member so his profile can’t be clicked through to while both of Patrick and Anthony have either left the group or are ‘blocked’ from me either by them or me.

So in this case, Tim is more likely to receive the benefit of the recommendation because he is a member of the group and members can link straight to his profile to find out more, unlike the others who are harder to identify and contact.

What’s more, the fact that ‘S’ has ‘tagged’ Tim means that Tim is notified of that fact immediately and can respond quickly instead of miss the opportunity altogether.

So Tim is clearly the winner in this exchange in more ways than one.


Barriers to entry


But entry to these groups can often be tricky for the business operator. Many groups are leery of any commercial presence within their inner sanctums fearing that their members will be subject to less than scrupulous attempts at selling product.

Then again, many group operators welcome business operators so as to learn more about their product and service and perhaps strike better deals than might otherwise be possible.

The other obstacle businesses have to deal with is that these groups rarely permit business pages or representations to join them. Both Facebook and LinkedIn only allow individuals rather than businesses to join their groups.

So be prepared to divulge your true identity to represent your brand, as we discussed here last week.

All in all, social network groups are an outstanding way to be in direct contact with prospective customers. Just be prepared to budget the time necessary to find the right ones and then engage with them.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.


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