Networking on social media

Posted: Fri, 08 August 2014 by

There is huge, even boundless, potential for social media to expose your company to a wide audience, to build brand awareness, and to forge valuable connections. Are you harnessing this potential, and using your business’ social media to your full advantage?

The business value of an online presence cannot be underestimated. Much of the scepticism about the value of social media in business seems to stem from a misunderstanding of the “social” element. Social media is social in the sense of being connected, collaborative, and co-operative. It is not superficial or light-weight.

At BloomVC.com we have to be entirely immersed in social media – our business simply couldn’t function without it. The majority of project owners who come to us find us through Facebook or Twitter communities. As an online platform, our natural audience is those who are already engaged online, so it’s no surprise that 80% of our business originates from social media. It’s our business space, where we connect with people.

Compared to it’s marketing potential, the networking opportunities of social media are often overlooked. However, if you start thinking of the internet as one giant, always connected networking event, imagine the possibilities! Forums or networking events are great for meeting people in person, but experience has shown me that only about 20% of these connections will turn in to business prospects.

I first saw the potential for harnessing social media years ago when I, admittedly reluctantly, signed up to Linkedin. I was surprised to find myself really appreciating it. I was using it to chat with my peers, forge connections and build business networks – in other words, it was an online extension of what I was already doing offline. The difference was that online networking was, and is, quicker and easier and allowed me to engage more effectively on a much wider scale.

Having made an acquaintance, you should be putting your contacts to work on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Even one-person ventures can’t operate in isolation; you are likely to need to reach out to others for certain skills, advice, contacts or expertise. This is where the wider-reaching ripple-effect of social media comes into its own. In the spirit of online collaboration, there are also innovative new platforms structured entirely around providing help for free. Start by finding existing acquaintances on your social network, then ask them to use their contacts too – even if you don’t know a website designer, one of your contacts might. A good tip is seek out the “influencers” on social media – those who have established networks, with large numbers of likes and followers. Klout ratings and Hootsuite rankings can help you to assess who you need to know online.

When searching for new business contacts, think of your social media feeds as your shop window to the world. Twitter is a particularly great platform for frequent updates and sustained posting – it is hard to over-tweet on Twitter, whereas on sites such as Facebook people might feel that their newsfeed is being saturated by too many posts. Calls to action on Twitter are also surprisingly effective; a “please RT” makes it four times more likely that your message will be retweeted. Once you’ve got people’s attention, don’t forget to include new contacts by tagging, or using @address and hashtags on Twitter. This will open up your discussion to an even wider audience.

Whichever platform you use, it is essential that you engage with your audience. You have to participate in existing discussions, as well as starting new ones. Social media can provide you with the world’s largest audience, but you shouldn’t take to the stage without something to say. Many large businesses seem to view social media as just a bolt-on to their main marketing package, and have created their social media accounts simply because it’s now seen as “the thing to do”. I absolutely believe that every business ought to have an online presence, but only if they also have a purpose, a clear agenda, and a reason to engage. Social media is all about conveying your own personal message, whether you’re in the FTSE 100, or just have the beginning of a great business idea.