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How to Use Social Listening to Find Clients Spend less time pushing out content and more time engaging with potential customers.

By Carlos Gil

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In November 2008, I was laid off from my job in the financial services industry due to the recession.

With no college degree or social network to fall back on, I joined LinkedIn per the recommendation of my mother who is a real estate broker and had been using the relatively new social media network at the time to network with professionals in human resources who would send my parents warm leads.

Ironically, seven years later I went to work for LinkedIn as an employee but not before spending countless hours and sleepless nights scouring the world's largest professional network for potential customers, which I would then follow and engage with on Twitter and Facebook.

As a young entrepreneur in my early 20s, I quickly learned how to code my job board startup website and organize community events (which I then pitched to media outlets), and built the foundation of a social network.

However, I made no money in my first year -- none.

When you don't have a marketing budget, you will force yourself to learn marketing even if you're not a "marketer" by trade.

Today, social media has become a large part of our everyday lives -- and there are more resources -- however the game of "social selling" is relatively the same as it was back in 2008. First, identify who you want to do business with. Then, find that person on LinkedIn and invite them to connect. Next, search for them everywhere online and keep an eye out for what they post. Last, casually engage without selling them anything so that person becomes familiar with seeing your face in his or her notifications and newsfeed.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

But, it gets better -- and more natural.

As the opening keynote speaker at Social Media Day Jacksonville 2018, seen in the video above, I shared with the audience that the most significant competitive advantage every business has today is the opportunity to listen to what is said about their company, their competition and industry.

Most companies, if not all, are focusing the majority of their efforts on pushing out content but they're ignoring what's being said by potential buyers of their products and services because they don't have the right number of employees in place or they don't know how to read through the noises.

If you want to know how to tap into social listening to find your next customer and outwork your competition, below are five tips for social media success:

1. Hashtag searches

I work with, and speak to, a lot of entrepreneurs in the real estate industry whom I've advised to spend at least one hour per day on Instagram and Twitter identifying potential leads. For example, if you're a local restaurant in Minneapolis, you can use a platform like Instagram to see who's posting at a local concert or sporting venue and send them a direct message (DM) with an offer. Most recently, I was in Washington, D.C. for a conference where a pub forwarded me and anyone else that was tweeting with the conference hashtag a message welcoming me to town and inviting me to come to the establishment.

There are real business opportunities right in front of you on Twitter and on Instagram, but it begins with running a search for either the places where your potential customers are checking in or the hashtags they are using related to your service.

2. LinkedIn

For a digital agency owner, your chances of getting an enterprise-level CEO or even a CMO to meet with you are much slimmer than say, landing a meeting with a VP or senior director of marketing. LinkedIn can be a goldmine for finding your next client only if you know who to go to in an organization and are connecting with that person directly. Think backward: Who will you or your company be working with on a day-to-day basis once you land that client? Whoever those people are within the organizational hierarchy is who you should be connecting with. Although they may not be the decision maker, your relationship with them can turn them into your most prominent advocate internally.

3. Social stalking

For B2B, connecting with your target client on LinkedIn is only one part of the puzzle. To be active with selling online, you need to make it a priority to go multichannel and be where your clients are. Keep in mind your competitors have the same access as you do and are likely connected to them already. While the next move may not be a popular one -- business is business -- go to your competitors' Twitter and Instagram accounts and see who they are tweeting to, posting about and most importantly who they're tagging and who is liking their content. Then, it's up to you to slide into their notifications. Social media is, in fact, the "wild, wild west." Don't forget always to check your notifications too to see who is liking your content.

4. Events and conferences

While it's unrealistic to attend every conference in your industry physically, it is realistic to participate virtually. Today, every major conference or trade show has an event #hashtag that you can follow on Twitter and Instagram. What you'll want to do is engage with the attendees who are actively posting content. This is an opportunity for you to not only identify and participate but introduce yourself as well and suggest touching base after the conference. Last, even if you're not attending in person at a minimum you can go to the event website and see who is speaking, which commonly shows their job title -- does it get any easier than that?

5. Facebook groups

A relatively untapped frontier for business development are Facebook groups. Groups such as Social Media Masterminds are have become VIP communities for industry professionals to come together and network. These resources are also good for potentially identifying clients because what you'll find is professionals will go into the group and say where they need help or that they're looking for an agency that can do XYZ for them. The key to getting the most out of groups is to participate in group discussions, post content that's of value to its members and have your notifications set to "on" so you will be one of the first to get notified whenever there's a new post.

Watch more videos from Carlos Gil on his YouTube channel here. Follow Carlos Gil on Instagram @CarlosGil83.

Related: Why Every Brand Should Be More Like DJ Khaled and Kim Kardashian

Carlos Gil

Author of The End of Marketing

Carlos Gil is the author of The End of Marketing: Humanizing Your Brand in the Age of Social Media and AI, an international keynote speaker, and award-winning digital storyteller with over a decade of experience leading social media strategy for global brands including LinkedIn.

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