Editor’s note: This post comes from our Constant Contact UK office. You can view all the posts from our UK team here. Or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

A common issue that I hear at our seminars is that social media is “great” and “fun” and good for  “awareness” but it can’t bring customer leads into my business.

I always listen, but normally end up telling the person who is making this comment, that if this is their experience, it’s because they’re not doing social media in the right way.

At that point, our questioner (let’s call him Jeff), will go one of two ways—the first is to roll his eyes, sit back, and cross his arms with the expression of “well you would say that wouldn’t you,” and the other is to lean forward with a look of “tell me more!”

I’m going to assume that you’re more like Jeff-2 than Jeff-1, and want to know about those leads, and how you can get them, so here’s what you need to know.

What is a social media lead?

When we talk about leads, we’re normally talking about people who have a need or want for your product or service at the moment.

You can use social media searches to find out who is talking about those needs. For example, if you are an accountant in Oxford, you can do a search on Twitter for people in your area who are talking about doing their accounts.

That is one type of social media lead.

The other type of social media lead happens when somebody asks for a recommendation on social media channels, and someone else steps in and says that your business is the place to go.

Clearly, there is more that you can do to actually find the first type of lead (by searching), but never forget that you also influence the second type of lead, by providing your customers with a WOW! experience that makes them want to recommend you.

How do you connect with a customer lead via social media?

If you are recommended to someone else on social media by an existing customer, making a connection is easy. Simply hit “Reply All” (or add a comment) and thank the person who recommended you, then say to the recommendee (is that a real word?), “How can I help?”

You may also wish to offer them your email address, or invite them to PM (Private Message) you, so  they’re not having to state their requirements in public.

If you are going lead hunting, then the process is a little bit longer, because you have to let the person get to know you.

In this case I favour a soft approach, so using our earlier example of accountancy, when you find someone that’s struggling with their accounts, you could ask them what’s the thing they’re finding most difficult. Then offer a tip on how to deal with that. Maybe you direct them to some resources on your website, and finally say something like, “We can help if you don’t want to do it all yourself.”

The important point here is that you have not just jumped right in and said, “I’m an accountant in your area, I can help.” You have got to know them a little bit first, and found out about their needs. You’ve also allowed them to see you for the professional that you are, rather than some crazy business-stalker.

Have you had success using social media to create leads? Tell us about it!