Though face-to-face networking remains crucial to the success of your business, taking advantage on online tools can be a great supplement to all your other efforts to find prospects. Personally, I'm not always comfortable at networking events. Trolling for customers online is very comfortable and often leads to the identification of a prospect followed by a live meeting for coffee. Using Twitter to identify prospects, see how they behave online, and then engage with them, can be an incredibly efficient use of your networking time.
Twitter allows you to use keywords and hashtags to find prospects who may even be geographically targeted. Try Twitter's Advanced Search tool to locate prospects. Using the Advanced Search tool along with the Twitter Operators enables you to find the people or businesses you are looking for in the location you are looking for.
Tweetdeck, Hoosuite and other applications that assist you in managing your Twitter feed, can also be used for prospecting purposes. Use keywords and phrases to add columns in both Tweetdeck and Hootsuite targeting people and/or business you want to connect with. When the columns populate, scroll through, locate those that interest you, and check them out. It's easy to follow potential prospects and engage with them on Twitter. Who knows, maybe they'll make the first move and want to connect with you.
Several other tools exist to assist in your prospecting. Twellow is an example of a tool that lets you target prospects by categories like you would use to look someone up in the Yellow Pages. Twellow also lets you add yourself to the directory for free.
Every tool has its pros and cons, and there are many to choose from. Find the one that works best for you and start engaging with your prospects. Let us know how it goes and what tools you are finding most useful.