Cooking up a Killer Referral Strategy Using Social Media

This post is part of a “Blog Carnival” that’s being hosted by Tea Silvestre from The Word Chef Blog.  The theme of the carnival is “Building Business Relationships” it’s part of a series of posts on the subject from a variety of small business experts.

Building referrals is just as important now as if was in the past.  In fact, I think it’s much easier and more cost effective now to develop and build those relationships than it had been in the past.  What I think is more difficult is keeping those referral conversations alive and focused.

Social media tools make it infinitely easier to find and connect with people, but because so many social media tools use a “timeline” format you can see and start a conversation one minute and forget about it the next simply because the screen has been refreshed with new conversations and posts.  This makes it difficult to move referral and opportunity conversations forward.

Here’s my killer time-saving and stress-reducing recipe for cooking up new business using a social media based referral strategy.

Total Time: About 2 hours to create social media accounts and generate list and about an hour per day managing your system

Yield: Profitable New Opportunities and Customers

Difficulty: Easy Peasy if you stay with it


  • No more than 3 specific marketing goals
  • Twitter account – in your name, brand name or company name
  • Facebook account
  • LinkedIn account
  • Try as a tool to integrate your social media conversations and create action items from those conversations
  • A list of about 200 names, you can create a list or just go down your email address book and pull the people you think can help you get referrals


  1. Set your marketing goals and objectives. These goals should look like something like this: “Launch a webinar series targeting pet shop owners in March” or “Find 5 market research contacts at big box stores who want to use our online survey tool”.  Setting clearly defined marketing goals will guide your social media networking strategies.
  2. Create a list of 200 referral contacts. Use your email database to create a list of 200 people with whom you want to have referral relationships.  Go through that list and label people “friends and family” then “partners” and finally “influencers”.   As you are labeling and grouping your contacts, you might get ideas about the ways in which they might be able to help you achieve your goals i.e. “Introduce me to the CEO of company X”.  I’d recommend that you write that next to their name while you are thinking about it, it will save you time later.
  3. Work your LinkedIn Contacts.  Go through your list of 200 and find everyone on LinkedIn.  If you are not connected to them, connect with them.  If they do not have a LinkedIn account, then you will have to manage that relationship via email and face-to-face methods only.  As you are doing that, you can send them an email message touching base and asking to schedule a catch-up call to discuss what they’ve been up to and how you can help each other.  You can also share what you’ve been up to and what you are looking for – they might respond with a connection or introduction on the spot.    Another great idea is to leave an endorsement for people as you check their presence on LinkedIn.  Leaving an endorsement for them will prompt them to leave one for you and to get in touch with you to catch up.  It’s a wonderful surprise and great “gift” to receive.
  4. Search Twitter for conversations around your goals.  Notice what the conversations are and who is having the conversations.  Create a Twitter list of the people labeled “Networking” or maybe even around your goals such as “market research” (to use our previous example).  Take 15 minutes a day to monitor the conversations on that Twitter list and engage in conversations with those people.  Follow their links, re-tweet their content, comment on their links and articles.  Of course, don’t forget to search for your list of 200 on Twitter and add them to your Twitter list.  This way you are tracking their conversations as well.
  5. Use Facebook to Network with Friends and Family.  Many businesses are hip to creating Facebook Fan pages, but your personal page may be more powerful as a networking tool.  I recommend posting pictures of what you are up to around your business and sharing with friends and family.  A friend of mine is in the promotional items business and often takes pictures of creative T-shirts and other items at trade shows that he things are very effective.  It tells us where he is that day and it gives us ideas that we can use for our promotional projects.  If you own a restaurant, take a picture of the daily special, if you are making a sales call or want to connect with someone, just ask your friends and family.  But don’t oversell on Facebook, it will be perceived as spamming and can backfire.
  6. Check out My new favorite social media and sales management tool is  It was developed by Jon Ferrera, the CEO of the successful sales CRM tool Goldmine in response to his peeve of having referral and opportunity conversations fall through the cracks.  Nimble will integrate your email, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts and show all the conversations in one stream or separate streams.  What I love about it is that it allows you to see all these conversations in one place and then you can also create an action item for yourself around that conversation.  Nimble is basically a social CRM tool that increases the value and ROI of your social media conversations.

Now, you might think all this will take an entire day’s worth of work.  Well, I won’t lie to you – the set-up probably will.  In reality, you can spend a day planning and strategizing your referral system – but once it’s done and you’ve focused your efforts, all it will take is about 15 to 30 minutes a day of working your system to keep those relationships and sales opportunities flowing your way.

This post is part of the The Word Chef Blog Blog Carnival hosted by Tea Silvestre.   Join us for a fun and informative  1-hour Tweet Chat about Business Relationships, how to build them and nurture them on Thursday, September at 1 pm Eastern / 4 pm Pacific.  Your participation in the Tweet Chat enters you into a drawing for a $50 Amazon Gift Card.

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  • Coolness! You know I love a good recipe, and this is definitely a keeper. I need to talk with you about my book project…

  • Wow Ivana, I read your post and then was off to set up my Nimble account and marvelling at how a short read turned into a whole new look on how to network, work out a new set of goals and with a bunch of ideas of how to use this information for my clients. I will follow up later with an update as to how it all went, just to prove that reading, taking advice and acting can make a difference in our business lives. Thank you.

  • Ooh, thanks for the recommendation – I LOVE a new productivity tool. Anything that helps make it easier or at least less time consuming I am ALL over. I will definitely check out Nimble.

  • i’m with Tea on loving the “recipe” style of specific, concrete tools and actions! Glad to see a note about overdoing it on Facebook too…that particular network can handle much less frequent updates than, say, Twitter…but lots of people seem to autopost everything to both.

    i’ll second your assertion that your personal Friends/Family on Facebook are a good resource too. i lean on them only lightly – trying to maintain professional vs. personal space – but at the moment i have WAY more Friends than Page Likes, and that community already knows and loves me, so they come through when i need feedback or help.

  • Hi Ivana,

    Just to sit down and make that list of 200 is a challenge. I’d never thought to do it. Good advice.
    Having read Stella’s post on LinkedIn I’ll try to build that area up. Leaving endorsements without being asked is a good suggestion thanks. I’ve done it on Alexa but this is more visible.

    Twitter: early on my profile included the words ‘internet marketing” because I was learning the fundamentals. Big mistake. Thereafter my incoming stream was so full of links I sometimes wondered where the conversation was! I added ‘music’ and was inundated with rappers and decidedly odd language. So how exactly do you find people around your goals?

    When I started business I’d go to a cocktail party several night a week with a bunch of business cards. At least with social media I get home earlier! Thanks for your advice on Nimble.

  • Ivana,

    Awesome article – I’d never heard of before. Traditionally I’ve been using Highrise for my CRM, but then again, I don’t have a lot of use for it. With your recipe, I can think of a few more uses! 🙂


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