5 Guiding Principles For When, Why and How to Use Social Media as a Business Development Tool

If you’re considering a deeper dive into social media for business development purposes, are attempting to evaluate your current investment in social, or are among those just now waking to the reality that social media is actually out there changing the market, this post is for you.

And it is a response to the fact that I continue to hear professionals wonder whether there is any value in blogging, whether Twitter has a place, and whether we should mess with Linked In.

Full disclosure — I am biased. I regularly reap what I believe to be the rewards of participating in social media. It comes in the form of professional conversations and relationships. On the other hand, many professional service providers enter the arena with unrealistic expectations, and asking the wrong questions.

With that caveat, here are five principles for your consideration.

Principle #1

When it comes to business development, Social networks — Twitter, Linked In, Facebook and the like — are above all else, connection tools. While the market at large sees them as content distribution channels, you had better have a market-shaking message if you hope to enter the social-sphere and have immediate impact.

Unless you’re a rock star or have celebrity status, the value to be derived from social media is realized in the creation of conversations. And relationships.

So the question at the outset is not who can we get to follow us? or what do we say?.

Instead, begin by asking with whom do we want to connect? Who should we be following?

Principle #2

Worry less about being heard and invest disproportionately in listening. This isn’t sexy, but assuming you’re connecting to individuals and companies for strategic reasons (versus just padding the followers count or grasping for any distribution channel you can find), an ear on dialogue in the social marketplace will pay off with an opportunity to tap into conversations that reveal topics of interest and issues of concern to your targets.

Principle #3

Business development is still all about relationship. Viewing social media as an avenue for broadcasting is to miss its dynamism. Sure — if your message/content is explosive, has broad appeal or impact, or is the latest and greatest pet video, you might get lucky and create a viral splash. But as a tool for building a professional services practice, social is only worth the investment if it plays an important role in the relationship equation.

Principle #4

Closely related to #3, if you’re basing success on the numbers game — well, you’re missing the point. If you want instant followers, there are plenty of ways to buy them. Or write a salacious blog headline, and watch your “hits” skyrocket. But if you seek quality connections— the kind that can turn into relationships and clients, the strategy for gaining connections should begin with smart targeting — just like every other aspect of professional services business development.

Principle #5

Once you’ve thoroughly adopted 1 through 4, you’re ready to consider messaging. What should your content be? It should:

  • Be relevant to your targets;
  • Help establish you as an important contributor to this conversation — a subject matter expert;
  • Deliver legitimate value;
  • Encourage dialogue;
  • Set the stage for the next conversation.

Consider these five principles as you develop a social media strategy. Be diligent, and allow the time necessary for meaningful conversations to emerge, and you’ll have a basis on which to measure ROI — are quality business development relationships forcing their way into your pipeline?

By Eric Fletcher