Most companies (and individuals) tend to think of Twitter as a way to push information. However, it's also possible to use Twitter as a sales tool, rather than a marketing tool.
Unlike LinkedIn, Twitter isn't really set up to create lists of leads or potential customers. Where Twitter is useful is after you've already identified an individual to whom you want to sell.
Here's what you can learn from examining a potential customer's Twitter profile:
1. What the potential customer tends to focus upon.
A person's tweets, retweets, and favorites provide a running commentary on what the tweeter believes to be important enough or interesting enough to share.
When you look down that list, you are walking backward through the tweeter's days, weeks, and months. You're getting snapshots of the tweeter's personality.
For example, from looking at Guy Kawasaki's most recent tweet (I wrote this at around noon Eastern on Feb. 20), I now know that he likes unusual desserts.
That type of personal information can obviously be very useful in sales situations. If I had a meeting with Guy, for instance, I might suggest that we meet at boutique dessert spot, or, if the meeting were at my office, have such a dessert catered in.
2. Who the potential customer finds interesting.
The list of people whom the tweeter is following is a map of how the tweeter perceives the world. People listen follow individuals and companies whom they want on their radar.
For example, right now, in another window, I'm looking at the "following" list of a fairly famous executive. Based on the profile portraits, the list seems have a greater than random selection of young, attractive women.
Under the circumstances, I think it's fair to say that the executive in question tends to be a visual thinker. Therefore, if I were selling to him, I would be certain to use strong visual cues in any conversation or presentation.
More prosaically, there are a number of companies on his list that fall into the "vendor" category in his industry. That's also useful to know, especially if I sense that I'm getting into a competitive situation.
3. Your potential customer's likely customers.
A tweeter's list of followers generally consists of people to whom the tweeter sells or would like to sell. At the very least, they're the people to whom the tweeter is "selling" their tweets, a fact that presumably reflects the tweeter's business model.
For example, right now I'm looking at a small company CEO with about 500 followers. By simply scanning her list, I can see the companies and individuals to whom she is either selling or intending to sell.
And that would be really useful information if I were intending to sell to her, because, as a general rule, when you understand your potential customer's customers, you're more likely to position your offering in a meaningful way.
4. The inside track with the potential customer.
As everyone knows, it's much easier to develop a new customer when you've got a personal introduction or recommendation from somebody who knows you (i.e. a referral).
So, suppose you discover a colleague or a current customer of yours among either the potential customer's followers or people whom the customer is following.
Bingo! You now have the inside track, according to SEO consultant Kumail Hemani, who suggests the following:
Send them an email and tell them you have a satisfied customer that their company is following on Twitter. Further explain how long they have been your customer, what you did for them, and what that customer says about you. This "bandwagon effect" establishes trust and helps your potential customer relate to your services.
I might add that this method is even more effective if you have your customer or colleague do the emailing for you.
What's more, if you do decide to send that email yourself, you can use what you've learned in the previous three steps to craft an email that's more likely to get a response.