Relationships have always been at the core of business development.
In today’s digital world, social media can accelerate the relationship-building process. An influx of social media over the past decade — from Facebook to LinkedIn — has enhanced the way we communicate with potential business partners, leading to quicker connections and serving as our primary method of research when looking to establish relationships.
Nine times out of 10, the person in charge of business development already has an idea of the kind of company they want to partner with for a particular initiative. Traditionally, their next step in forging an initial connection would be to cold call or email the company, and to build a rapport from there. Social media fast-tracks this process. We’re now able to find precisely the best person to contact, determine if we have any mutual connections, understand their background (as well as the company’s) and get a sense of the different players within a company — all before we have a single conversation.
Let’s take a look at a few ways we can utilize the information available on social media to enhance biz dev practices, and move the needle for initiatives and partnerships across all industries.
1. Think of social media as a lens
Social media provides the opportunity to see what potential partners, competitors and customers are doing firsthand. A major asset in business development research, social media is a concrete way to see how companies are performing within their respective ecosystems — which can shed light into possible ways of working together (or reasons to not). At the same time, potential partners are certainly leveraging social media as a lens in their own research. Make sure to position yourself and your company as industry experts by sharing thought-provoking content on your accounts, and highlighting recent successes or milestones.
2. Adjust messaging across social channels
Every social network has a different flavor — the way people behave and connect across channels varies. Since business initiatives undoubtedly span across many social media platforms, it’s important to adjust accordingly. For instance, at Bitly we leverage our core assets on Twitter and Facebook differently. On Twitter, we promote ongoing marketing campaigns, share curated content and direct customer service requests to support. We use Facebook for larger marketing initiatives and to showcase company culture and resources. There’s no universal, one-size-fits-all guide to social media — so be flexible!
3. Leverage employee relationships
If you are looking to connect with someone at a certain company, always check to see if anyone at your organization has a pre-established relationship with that person. Social media channels like LinkedIn make it very easy to see mutual connections. Whether you ask your colleague to make an introduction or publicize the initiative via their own account, a mutual connection is an automatic leg-up in the game of business development.
4. Use social media as an additional touch point
Social media is not the only key to business development success, but it serves as an important touch point and addition to traditional practices. For example, we have all inevitably sent an email or voicemail to a business prospect that went unanswered. It’s natural for people to be so busy that they gloss over or forget about an inquiry. However, now it’s a standard practice to follow up separately via LinkedIn or other digital avenues, leading to additional opportunities to build a rapport with potential partners.
On or offline, the most fundamental element of business development will always be strong relationships. At the end of the day, what’s most important is that you are partnering with a company or person that has a good reputation, will do great things and can market an initiative collaboratively to significant traction. Social media is an incredible starting block — just think of it as a means for old-fashioned relationship building, but for today’s increasingly connected world.
Originally written by Jennifer Hanser