Social media is a great way to showcase individuals and businesses as credible, professional resources, but it’s a great tool for prospecting as well. Whether you are new in a position or an established employee, prospecting is essential in any sales role.

Fortunately, social media has made prospecting an easier undertaking, enabling sales to be more effective and intentional with first time connections. Very few sales people actually take the time to research prospects before they make an initial call. Using social media can help in uncovering valuable conversation topics that will boost prospecting efforts, but you have to do a little homework first.

Research the demographics of each social media channel to make sure you choose the best fit for you or your business because in order to find and engage with potential prospects, you have to surf where they surf. For example, B2B companies will do well on LinkedIn and Twitter, while B2C companies experience success on Facebook and Pinterest. These are just guidelines of course, but you have to get to know your prospects’ social media habits to make the most out of your prospecting efforts.

LinkedIn is a great opportunity for sharing information and providing thought leadership. Look for groups to join or start a new one. This is a great way to share valuable content and show that you are an expert in y our field. Be an active participant in conversations versus pushing content and information directly about you or your service. This creates personal connections and can lead to new introductions and/or referrals.

Twitter offers an advanced search tool that allows you to search keywords and phrases that matter to your customers and thus find new leads. You can also categorize your leads into lists so you can monitor conversations and listen for social signals where you can add value, not necessarily a pitch. It’s important to recognize where your leads are in the sales funnel. If they show an interest in your industry but haven’t presented an issue they are looking to resolve, then this is an opportunity to join in on the conversation and offer an opinion or advice which may very well lead to an opening for a pitch.

Facebook has close to 179 million users in the U.S. alone with over 100 million Americans checking their Facebook pages on their mobile phones daily, spending an average of 25 minutes each day. These stats alone make spending 5 to 10 minutes a day monitoring these conversations an easy decision. Facebook users share what’s happening in their personal lives, what moves them, makes them happy or sad. You can gain great insights and be able to make more personable conversations than you would otherwise.

Pinterest is a major source of product discovery for consumers and is driving more traffic to businesses than any other social media platform. Shoppers are on Pinterest and looking for ideas to make their life easier. It’s a great tool for sharing products, services and information. Consider adding a board for customer testimonials. 88% of consumers read reviews to determine the quality of a business, so help your prospects choose you through word of mouth and referrals from your happy customers.

Whichever social media channel you choose, make sure to be consistent and make regular posts. Nothing turns off potential customers more than outdated information or lack of interesting content, so seek out interesting, relevant articles & information to share with your target audience and you are more likely to attract new followers and generate conversation.