In an age where social media is omnipresent, why not use your online presence to build more and better business relationships? Here are some simple do’s and don’ts to keep you on the right track.
Do: Reach out regularly
Online business relationships are similar to offline ones – regular contact is required for the relationship to stay alive. Adding or following someone on a social media platform is just the first step. Beyond that, you need to take action to ensure you don’t become just another vaguely familiar name on their contact list.
Take the initiative to reach out in a more meaningful and memorable manner. Start a conversation, share useful information on your own profile, comment on articles or links they have shared, or ask for help in their area of expertise. The key is to stay on their radar through regular interaction.
Don’t: Mistake quantity for quality
From your follower or contact list count to the number of likes, shares and so on, a lot of emphasis is placed on numbers. This blurs the line between quantity and quality – the former does not necessarily translate into the latter. Having a few thousand followers or contacts means nothing if none of them think about you first when they are looking for a business solution.
Therefore, avoid adding just any person you find on your social networks. If valuable business partners see you associating with questionable individuals on Facebook or those that do not come with solid professional backgrounds on LinkedIn, it could seriously damage your reputation. Similarly, buying fake followers simply to boost your contact list figures could backfire, causing immeasurable harm to your business prospects.
Do: Treat your online presence as your ‘brand’
Anything you post online is representative of who you are and affects your reputation – in other words, it’s your very own online brand. So take the effort to treat it as such, paying special attention to how you interact and behave online.
Log in regularly to keep up to date with your social interactions, and make sure you fully understand that article you're sharing and the impression it creates on your followers. A proactive approach, where you check your content and interactions online, would be far more beneficial in building a strong brand that others will be drawn towards.
Don’t: Mix your business and personal accounts
Professionalism is important while trying to build business relationships. Rather than constantly limiting your personal interactions or worrying about whether you are portraying a professional image, it would be far simpler to separate your business and personal accounts on social media channels.
That having been said, it is never a good idea to say something that could potentially damage your – or someone else’s business – on a personal or professional account, without solid evidence to back it up.
Do: Follow up offline
Online platforms are great for expanding your contact list, but taking a new business relationship to the next level requires offline interaction. Whether it’s a quick catch-up over coffee or a meet-up at a conference, following up in person helps deepens the relationship and shows sincerity. Physical presence is important in any relationship – so once you’ve established a rapport online, find the right time to strengthen the association offline.
When building offline relationships, giving and receiving business cards solidifies the new connection by anchoring it in that little palm-sized token. For effective storage of business cards and to be able to retrieve them at a moment’s notice, use a professional contact management solution such as Sansan. This software allows you to share your database with all the employees in your organisation, making it easy for someone to pick up the conversation from where you left off.
The volatile nature of social media makes it imperative that businesses use it with care. But by remaining professional, careful and sincere in your online conduct, social media can open a world of new connections and opportunities for you and your business like never before.