social media how toDo you need a strategy to reach your ideal prospects with social media?

Are you overwhelmed by all the social media options?

If so, you’re not alone. Social media overwhelm is one of the biggest challenges businesses face.

In this article, I’m going to show you three social media strategies so you can focus your efforts on the channels that best align with your business objective and target audience.

The Simple Solution

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution for it: only focus on where your customers are.


Where are your customers on social media? Image source: iStockPhoto.

Once you find out where your customers are on social media, it becomes easier to come up with a strategy that will help you find your future customers.

Here are three strategies you should consider:

Strategy #1: Ask Your Customers

Asking is the low-hanging fruit that’s easy for small business owners to overlook. It’s such a simple thing to do and allows you to further cement the personal connection you have with your customers.

If you have a brick-and-mortar business, when your customers visit your location, ask whether they use social media. If you have another type of business, figure out the best time and place to ask your customers whether they use social media.

If they do use social media, ask them what channels they spend their time on. Is it FacebookPinterest? Maybe it’s LinkedIn.

Maybe they don’t even use social media. By asking, you’d know.

If your customers are using social media, take it a step further and ask them how they like to be engaged on those channels. This will give you invaluable insight into how you can best add value in a way they’ll find useful.

You can also take the same approach if your business is online.

Most online businesses have an email list. Send your customer contacts an email and ask the same questions. It doesn’t have to be the subject of an entire email, necessarily; just a simple “P.S.” at the end of your weekly newsletter or part of a quarterly survey you send out should work wonders.

email ps

Ask you using a P.S. in your email.

Implementing this strategy can separate you and your business from your competitors, because so few businesses make the effort to ask. Asking removes any assumptions you may have about where your customers are hanging out online and shows them how much you care.

This is an easy way to get the important information you need to set up a successful social media strategy for your business.

Strategy #2: Use Google Alerts

I’m sure you’ve heard of Google Alerts, but are you using them?

If not, you’re missing a simple and free way to monitor what’s going on in your industry and find where your customers are online.

Google Alerts are updates you can set up in Google that allow you to keep track of a specific topic anytime it’s mentioned on the web.

For example, you can monitor if you or your business is mentioned across the web or keep track of industry news. When there’s a mention of your topic, you receive an email with a link to that search result.

How does this help you find your customers on social media?

Say you’re a small toy company that specializes in locally made wooden toys. You have an online presence but want to expand it and you think that social media might be an effective strategy. You’re unsure, though, which channels your target audience is using.

You could use Google Alerts to find this out.

You decide to enter “birthday gift ideas for kids” as a search query in Google Alerts. And the results show Pinterest boards and articles on “mommy blogs” that are relevant to your business.

When checking out the Pinterest board, you also find several other boards that are similar to your niche. Bingo! Pinterest may be one social channel you want to focus on.

Here’s how to set up your Google Alerts:

  • Go to Google Alerts.
  • Enter the term or phrase you want to monitor in the Search Query field.
  • Choose the type of results you’d like to get in the Result Type field. (I recommend starting out with “Everything.” You can always change it once you see the type of results you’re getting.)
  • Then choose how often you want to receive the results, how many results you want (I recommend “Only the best results”) and the email where you want to receive them.
    google alerts

    Here's how to set up Google Alerts.

Google Alerts require a little market research, but can get you the valuable information you need to find the social media strategy that works best for your business.

Strategy #3: Use the Search Function Within Social Channels

Sometimes you may want to take a deeper dive into researching your customers on a specific social media platform. Or you may love using a certain social platform and want to know whether your customers are there too. You can use the platform’s search functionality to quickly find out if your customers use the same one.

Each social channel has a search function that gives you the opportunity to instantly determine whether your customers are using it. And this can be as simple as entering the names of some of your customers in the search box on the social platform.

You can also search on things like your niche topic, relevant industry leaders, brands within your niche and any competitors you might have.

Using the search function is another simple and effective strategy that’s often overlooked, yet it will give you great insight into whether your customers are actively using that platform.

If you have a large customer base, consider pulling together a short list selection of the typical customers you want to reach on social media, and then search for them on a social media platform. This would give you information to work with.

Use the Google+ Communities Search:

google+ community search

Google+ Community search.

Or use the LinkedIn Search:

linkedin search

LinkedIn search.

Twitter’s Advanced Search is especially effective because not only can you search by all the attributes mentioned above, you can also search within a specific geographic region.

twitter search

Twitter Advanced Search includes geographic locations.

Remember to stay up to date with changes on your favorite social platform. For example, there have been developments recently with Facebook Graph Search.

Conducting a little research on your customers using the search functions on the social platforms can help you determine where you should invest your social media marketing.

Finding Your Customers Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

Use these simple, effective (and free!) ideas to find which social channels your customers are using.

As a business, if you’re not engaging with your customers on their terms, you’re missing a huge opportunity to add value and ultimately grow your business.

Focus your efforts on the few channels that align with your customers and business objectives and let your competitors be overwhelmed by thinking they need to be on every social media platform.

What do you think? Have you used any of these simple strategies to find out which social channels your customers are using? What other strategies have you used to find where your customers are online? Let me know in the comments below.

Image from iStockPhoto.
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  • Rick, great piece, thanks. What do you think about tapping into negative customer experiences with competitors as a strategy to find customers? Does it work? What are the pitfalls to be aware of?

  • Very useful tips Rick, I especially find the second strategy very interesting when it comes to discovering new potential customers and making connections. The company should define a global strategy (and goals), which could be the combination of all the strategies you have mentioned.

  • Rick Mulready

    Hey Anthony, great question. I think monitoring what’s going on with your competitors is one great strategy for finding your customers. I would just be careful how you position yourself if you are going to engage with those unhappy customers of your competitors. Try and add value without outright “selling” your business or inviting them over to your social channel(s) of choice.

    Instead, be a resource and help them. This will help position you as an “expert”. You can also follow them or Like them on their social channels so you can start listening to the conversations they are having about your niche. Again, adding value where appropriate. This will help build a relationship between you and that person.

    Great question, thanks for asking.

  • Rick Mulready

    Absolutely right, nailed it. Thanks for reading today!

  • I think its that fine line between taking an opportunity to add value vs. deliberately trying to put your competitor down or make them look silly. Nobody likes people who do that and I don’t think you can underestimate your customers intelligence in grasping the fact you’re probably taking the opportunity to poke fun and make matters worse.

    Instead, like you say, its about adding some value and being as impartial as you can – giving customers ‘an alternative’ choice, for example.

    Makes sense. Thanks for the reply!

  • Chhavi Vatwani

    The first trick always works. It’s good that someone wrote about directly just asking your customers. You just gave me an idea though! Polls 🙂 never looked at it this way. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for sharing an insightful post. All techniques you have mentioned here to find customers are just awesome. I just like the second one here “Use Google Alerts”. Really an informative post.

  • What do you think about Google Alerts honestly not working like they used to anymore? I have like 10 set up and they rarely ping me as much as they used to when new content is published. Frustrating, right? Thanks!

  • “Only focus on where your customers are.” Rick, what GREAT advice! So many of us try to have a presence on every social platform for fear of missing out on reaching another “potential” customer who “might” be there. But the fact of the matter is, we simply can’t manage that effectively – why not just go where you KNOW they are? Thanks for the awesome strategies!

  • I agree with this. Google Alerts is not what it used to be and I no longer recommend it to clients. I use and recommend as an alternative.

  • Rick Mulready

    You bet, Chhavi. Glad you found the article useful.

  • Rick Mulready

    Thanks, Swapan!

  • Rick Mulready

    Hey Brian! What’s up man. I haven’t noticed a difference personally but that’s definitely frustrating. I wonder if anyone else has experienced that?

  • Rick Mulready

    Thanks guys!

  • Todd

    Great article Rick. Totally agree on the search function in social media – so under-used!

    Do you have any tips on refining the results from Google Alerts? They can be pretty varied, is there a geo-results search for example?


  • AmandahBlackwell

    Hi Rick,

    Thanks for reminding me about Google Alerts. I set up alerts a while ago and haven’t added new alerts. I will now!

    I haven’t toyed with Twitter/Advanced Search and put it on my schedule for tomorrow.

    LinkedIn and Google are great places to find clients. I search local first and expand to other states.

  • Rick, thanks for the awesome tips. I personally use google alerts a lot. I have not experimented with social search but will play with it soon.

  • Juliana Crawley

    Excellent and right on topic with what I’m studying right now. Thank you!

  • Nice post, Rick. I think sometimes marketers and/or social media users don’t take advantage of the advanced search functionality or all of the capabilities on the channels. Social networking channels were built with connecting in mind, I’d advise anyone to take advantage and explore to undoubtedly (and fairly easily) grow their network.

  • Rick Mulready

    Awesome, Amandah, would love to hear how the Twitter and advanced search go for you.

  • Rick Mulready

    For sure, thanks for adding to this Sarah. Appreciate you reading.

  • Rick Mulready

    Boom! I love it when the timing comes together, Juliana. Glad it can help and good luck with the studying.

  • Rick Mulready

    You’re very welcome, Ali. The search functionalities are great, look forward to hearing how they work out for you.

  • Dara K

    These are some great points. I never thought about setting up Google Alerts. Thanks for the info! I will definitely start utilizing what I learned here.

  • AmandahBlackwell

    Hi Rick,


  • Teresa Santos

    It’s such a shame that LinkedIn no longer supports content/updates search! It was one of my favourite tools to search for new customers …

  • Nini29

    Great article!
    I would like to know which monitoring tool could you advice me in order to check the e-reputation of the company i am working for? It is important to know what it is said about your products, services, positive or negative comments.

    Thanks a lot 🙂

  • Tracy

    I’ve found Google Alerts really ineffective actually; I use which is ten times more effective. I use the free version but there is also a paid version with more features

  • Rick, good read! I would also suggest to email to customers and ask them to connect to you on LinkedIn and G+ page – include convenience links into email.

  • Roslyn Lindsay

    Great article. I use a number of social media platforms but I am going to put some of your tips into practice to increase the traffic I get from them and also weed out the ones that none of my customers are using. Thanks for the insights.

  • ronel labuschagne

    Interesting. Will make use of Google alerts. Thanks

  • helen

    I never heard of Google Alerts ! I will be mentioning it to my business friends, the internet moves so fast these kind of articles really help to flag up useful features to people who like me use it but don’t necessarily understand the potential of a new gizmo till someone else works it out!

  • Hi Melanie, not sure if your question was for me or for Rick – but there are lots of tools that you can use to track mentions across the web, the one I use the most is Google Alerts, which sends you an email each time a new web page or result pops up in the search engines for terms you define. Its an excellent way to keep track of terms relating to your brand and/or keywords you are looking to optimise for SEO purposes for example.

  • Rick Mulready

    Nice, glad to hear that Dara. Thanks for reading!

  • Rick Mulready

    Totally agree, Igor. Just want to make sure we’re giving customers a reason to connect with us, not just saying “hey, connect with me here.” Thanks for the comment.

  • Rick Mulready

    Love hearing that, Roslyn! Appreciate you reading. Good luck.

  • AmandahBlackwell

    Hi Rick,

    I started testing Twitter advanced search, and I like it. I need to ‘tweak’ my searches, but it’s a great tool.

    Thanks again for sharing the Twitter tip.

  • I totally enjoyed your post Rick. I’ve used Google Alerts in the past for my videos but you have given me some good insight for using it it in other ways. I think I will probably begin with using it to find good quality blogs that I can link my own to. What do you think? Have any tips or advice for me before I start other than what you’ve written here?

  • haha, exactly!

  • Pingback: Tips on Finding Customers with Social()

  • Steve Munford

    There are gold nuggets in here, great stuff thank you.

  • Social media is around us everywhere we go on the internet. To ignore it is impossible because targeted marketing used to connect with idea customers has really evolved and continues to do so. Taking the time to spend networking, connecting, and communicating while you’re focused on your target customer, can be very beneficial. Thanks for the tips Rick!

  • Nini29

    Thanks a lot Antony. My question was for anyone willing to answer :). I will have a look on it.

  • There is a story I like to tell re a relatively famous person checking into a well known hotel chain, Less than impressed with the service he tweeted his discontent. Within minutes a rival hotel replied something along the lines of “Sorry you are having a hard time, hope the rest to your holiday here is great.” You can guess where he booked next time he was in town.

    Nice article Rick, the thing that really surprises me though is how badly most marketers use SMM, even the BIG brands, think Louis Vuitton. They are just not getting the SOCIAL side, it is still a PR or Ad chanel.
    Just as recently as Friday, I met with a potential client who showed me her Analytics [21st century version of “etchings!” ] and asked me to “Crystal Ball. ”

    When I asked her what her goals, or aims were, you know, your plan, strategy?
    she just looked at me as if I was from another planet. It is hard not to articulate my thoughts sometimes.