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The Complete Guide to Social Media Prospecting

Illustration of two people holding a magnet in front of a social media platform
Although things tend to move quickly on social media, prospecting involves thinking long-term. [Studio Science]

Learn how to fill your sales pipeline with high-value, engaged leads using social media.

By 2027, there will be 5.85 billion social media users around the world. You might be thinking, “That’s great, but how will that help me sell?” Through social media, you can connect with a whole market of potential customers you never would have met otherwise. Some folks will be tempted to flood their social feeds with generic sales messages, but don’t be fooled by that approach. Social media prospecting is much more strategic than that.

To be successful, your strategy should focus on authenticity and connecting with your audience where they are. In this article, we share social media prospecting strategies to take you from a few likes to customers who actively engage with your brand.

What you’ll learn:

Engage and close prospects from everywhere

Pull up CRM data for prospects even when you’re engaging with them outside your CRM — whether on social or online. 

What is social media prospecting?

Social media prospecting is when sellers use social media networks — like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and X — to build relationships with prospects. Sellers can use it to research, identify, and connect with these potential customers. Here are some examples:

  • Searching LinkedIn for the top Chief Information Officers (CIOs) at healthcare companies to add to your prospecting list.
  • Commenting on a Facebook thread about a CIO’s recent promotion to show support.
  • Re-posting a company’s new product launch announcement with your audience and adding your own industry insights.

Although things tend to move quickly on social media, prospecting involves thinking long-term. It’s not about hard-selling on first contact. Instead, sellers who use this method build multiple social touchpoints over time to foster relationships with prospects before pitching to them.

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Why is social media prospecting important?

LinkedIn found that businesses that prioritize social selling are 51% more likely to reach their sales quota. It’s a modern approach to prospecting that gives you another way to bring in customers while hitting critical sales targets.

But it’s about more than numbers. Social selling is about meeting your audience where they are. And if they’re like most people, they’re on social media. Unlike more traditional prospecting approaches — cold calling, for example — social media prospecting doesn’t demand someone drop everything they’re doing to hear your pitch. On top of that, you’re able to tailor your message with all of the prospect information at your fingertips. They also see your information, which provides background and context. This makes it more likely they will respond.

For example, if a seller messages me on LinkedIn, I can easily view their profile — where, in most cases, their name, role, expertise, company website, and connections are all displayed. Having this background information right away provides credibility for the salesperson, and it helps ground me in who they are, what they’re selling, and how I fit in. On top of that, hopefully, the salesperson has also tailored their message specifically to me and intrigued me with some solution to a current problem I’m having.

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How does social media prospecting work?

There’s no shortage of social media channels, which makes it hard to know where to focus your efforts. Narrow it down by finding the channels your prospects are using most, and connect with them there. It’s that simple.

I mostly sell to the C-suite at SaaS companies, and they are all over LinkedIn. A friend of mine sells to local governments and finds that most of them use X (formerly Twitter). Not sure what platform your audience is hanging out on? Try searching for relevant keywords on Google or joining related forums like Facebook groups to find the right channel.

Think about the demographics of your prospects and their social media habits. Gen Z heavily uses TikTok but, perhaps surprising to some, is one of the fastest-growing demographics on LinkedIn, according to LinkedIn Career Expert Andrew McCaskill. Millennials on the other hand — especially those in creative industries — are active on visual-heavy Instagram. Everyone has their preference, which is why you should research where your target demographic is most likely to hang out and start there.

Once you’ve found your channel, it’s a matter of following some critical best practices. Let’s break those down.

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Best practices for building a social media prospecting list

There was a time when the more Facebook friends you had, the more popular you were. But times have changed, and it’s no longer about the quantity of friends, but quality. To keep the right pool of contacts — one that’s engaged and active — I recommend the following:

Create your top-tier list

Narrow down your prospects to a manageable list. Then, organize them by industry and target roles. I find that 25 companies and three target roles, or personas, at each of those companies is a reasonable amount. These should be tier-one prospects that fit your ideal customer profile. My list is usually SaaS companies targeting chief revenue officers (CROs), CIOs, and VPs of sales for a total of 75 prospects.

Refresh your list every quarter

Every quarter, follow this same process but create a new list with new people. Weed out the old, stale contacts (from deals that stalled or fell through) and pursue new prospects. At the same time, a dead lead may not be dead forever. Be sure to keep track of contacts and engagements in your CRM, and follow up with past prospects from time to time to see if someone bites.

Keep track of data in your CRM

Put all your prospects and engagements into your CRM so you have a central lead hub you can quickly refer to for information.

Engage on social media

Search for your prospects on social media and see how active they are. If they’re active recently — in the last week or so — then you can start engaging. Let’s say you’ve determined that your prospects mainly use LinkedIn. One prospect you’re targeting, Jack B. Nimble, has posted multiple times in the last few days. Comment on one of his posts and tag someone in your network to confirm you see value in the content. Then request a connection.

Let’s see how that might play out…

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Steps for social media engagement (with an example)

Step 1: Comment on one of Jack’s posts about the latest industry study — either by starting or continuing a thread. Ask a question or make an insightful comment.

Step 2: Tag someone relevant in the thread — a coworker, industry expert, or business leader — to encourage further conversation and show Jack that you’re genuinely interested in the topic.

Step 3: Keep your messages concise, provide value, and be real.

Why not share the post? The way the LinkedIn algorithm works is based on time spent on a post, so by continuing the thread, you’re helping to boost a prospect’s post engagement and visibility.

Example comment:“@Jack thanks for sharing the scented candle study! The industry trend toward berry scents really caught my eye. @Jill Would love to implement a scent strategy leading up to Valentine’s Day. What’s your take?”

  • Connect: Notice the order here: Engage then connect. Only send a connection request after engaging with Jack’s post and building rapport. This may seem counterintuitive, but you shouldn’t personalize your request where the platform asking you to add a note. Here’s why: In this instance, I’ve found that there’s a higher connect rate without personalization because a personal note can often show your cards too soon. Rather than beginning with a pitch, start as someone just looking to engage instead.
  • Contact with context: Jack sees and likes your post, thanks you for your comment, and accepts your connection. Your next step is to wait a few days (social selling isn’t an immediate pitch) and send him a LinkedIn video or voice message. Your message should have context within the social platform and reference the previous interaction. For Jack, it could go something like this:

“I saw your post the other day about scaling your candle factory operations and hiring more workers for support. I’d love to chat with you about an HR software solution that I think can really help you out.”

It’s not a hard sell, but it sets the stage and shows you have a legitimate reason for reaching out.

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How to build your personal brand on social media

Social media prospecting also involves building your personal brand. A personal brand can build your reputation and shape how prospects view you on social media. Some steps you can take to do this include:

Complete your profile

This includes a current, professional headshot, up-to-date information about you and your company, and a thoughtful, optimized headline and bio that help readers understand who you are right away. For more branding tips, check out this HBR article.

Define your values, mission, or purpose — and your audience

What do you stand for and who are you trying to reach? Defining these things will help interested people find you. Think about current issues facing your industry or the world at large that you are helping to solve; look at PWC reports for inspiration.

Solicit reviews

Good reviews give you credibility, so whenever you can, ask satisfied customers to review your business on social media. And don’t underestimate the power of professional endorsements from former and current colleagues, industry professionals, and business leaders. These can establish trust with your audience and help you stand out from the crowd.

Be genuine

Authenticity goes a long way with people, especially with the rise of AI. Consistent, authentic messaging gives you a better shot at earning your customers’ trust and loyalty.

Lean into thought leadership

Rather than just reposting an article, share your key learnings, practical takeaways, and expert advice about that article. As you build your brand and your reputation, you can earn more trust from prospects when you position yourself as an industry expert, rather than simply recirculating a piece of content without any context.

Consume regularly, post when relevant

I make consuming content part of my morning routine, setting aside a half hour to read industry and company news, trend reports, and research that I think would be of interest to my prospects. I only share on social media when I discover something new and interesting rather than following a specific posting cadence. But it is a good idea to post regularly. According to social media experts, once or twice a day is ideal for LinkedIn.

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Make social selling a strategic part of your prospecting

There are multiple social media channels out there for you to tap into. Find the one your prospects like best and start building credibility and authenticity with your personal brand. Bring value to your social media conversations by sharing curated content with insightful context. Target intentionally, engage with purpose, and build stronger connections with social media prospecting.

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John Barrows CEO, SellBetter by JB Sales

John Barrows has trained some of the fastest-growing sales organizations in the world including Salesforce, Linkedin, Box, Slack, Amazon, and Zoom. His goal is to change the negative perception of sales because he believes that when sales is done right, it’s one of the greatest professions in the world. John is also the co-author, with his daughter, Charlotte, of the Amazon bestseller children’s book “I Want to Be in Sales When I Grow Up.”

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