John Cusack in Say Anything defines romance for a generation.

What Do Social Media And First Dates Have In Common? More Than You’d Think

We’ve all watched enough romantic comedies to imagine this scenario: You’re single and in a grocery store. You’re minding your own business, squeezing several avocados before finding the perfect one. And then you realize that your dream date is standing next to you, doing the same thing. What do you do?

Maybe you share an embarrassed laugh and ask, “What’s for dinner?” You get to talking and the conversation comes naturally. Your dream date seems interesting and, perhaps more importantly, interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions. It turns out that you two have a lot in common.

At the checkout, dream date asks for your number, saying it would be great to continue the conversation over coffee. Interested, you say yes and share your details. A few days later you’re on a date—everything has gone perfectly. What does this story have to do with social media marketing? We’d argue a lot.

Here are just three ways that building relationships on social media and converting those relationships into a social sale is a lot like scoring a first date:

Discovery

You and your soon-to-be-date met in a public space over shared interests (or daily routines) in grocery shopping and picking perfectly ripe avocados. During this first touch-point, both of you were attentive. You were listening to each other, highly engaged, and searching for other common interests by asking questions. In just a moment, you learned enough about each other to turn the conversation into a potential relationship.

Not to bring Hootsuite into your love life, but we’re all about helping our customers turn conversations into meaningful relationships. For businesses looking to build relationships on social media, try out some of our favorite first date tips on your social following with the help of Hootsuite:

  1. Do your research: Unlike a chance meeting in a grocery store, social media gives you some breathing room to research before making a connection. What do they do? What are they interested in? What do you two have in common?
  2. Use this newfound information to spark up a conversation.
  3. Look them in the eye. This isn’t easy online, but the concept is the same: even though there are many conversations circling your business, be attentive to the conversation at hand and focus on the individual behind the social message.
  4. Listen.
  5. Show that you care by asking great questions and sharing related content.
  6. Be polite, but also be yourself.

Nurturing Leads

Nurturing your date sounds weird, we know. But that’s how you turn a chance encounter at the metaphorical social media grocery store into a customer.

What’s so different about starting a conversation online, building a relationship, and then asking them to click a link or fill out a form? Here are some of the ways in which businesses can make nurturing a social media lead into a potential sale that much smoother:

  1. Optimize the path to conversion: Similar to giving someone your old phone number that your mom sometimes answers, make sure that it’s easy for customers to click a link or buy a product. You wouldn’t demand a very specific time and meeting place from your date, so why would you demand so much from someone who’s never met you?
  2. Nurture soft leads as well: Equivalent to your date just getting out of a relationship and wanting to take it slow, give your soft leads great content and engagement to stay in the funnel until they’re ready for your pitch.
  3. Treat social media leads differently: You didn’t meet this dream date at a private nightclub, instead, in a public space. The same goes for social media. As a business, know that social media is the customer’s turf and you’ve entered it. Don’t barge in with a sales pitch, instead nurture the relationship by building trust and getting to know the individual behind the account.

Conversion

So you’ve got dream date’s number and you’ve just texted it, offering up a coffee date. For businesses, getting contact information is soft lead generation. Moving them down the funnel to prospect conversion, where they purchase a product, is similar to getting dream date to agree to the coffee date—and then to actually show up.

Now let’s say that you two have gone on your first coffee date. Everything went really well and you think things might move forward. Getting your date to commit to you, whether in the short or long term, means that you need to continue practicing first-date etiquette and nurturing your relationship. You need to continuously listen, engage, share, and provide value in order to keep your date and build the relationship.

For businesses, retention means keeping customers in the sales cycle by nurturing the relationship and continuing to provide value and products or services for every customer. The more time and effort put into nurturing the relationship and providing more value for the customer, the more likely they are to become a loyal, repeat customer.

In a recent Hootsuite post on Return on Relationship, we said that people will always buy a product or service from someone they know and like, over someone they don’t. In this post, we say that instead of businesses always asking, “What’s the ROI of social?” They should be asking “What’s the ROI of trust?,” or of loyalty, or influence. Businesses that are spending the time to get to know customers personally and build trusting relationships are more likely to turn conversations into sales—just on the notion that we’d all rather buy from someone we know.