The Role of Social Media in Business Development: A Virtual Handshake, or a Real One?

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Social Media Marketing lives within a broader marketing strategy.  Business development doesn’t only happen online —   if you ever doubt this, look how many business conferences and other opportunities for face time there are!  Each type of contact has it’s place.

Here are two stories to illustrate my point. You decide…what role did social media play, and what role luck, timing, personal  networking, and other factors?

Story #1

1.  A year ago,  I joined the board of the local chapter of the AMA.  At one of the meetings, I ran into someone who had done work for one of my clients, the first time we met in person.  We spoke a little…knew some people in common, that sort of thing.

2.  Over the following months, we had virtually no contact.  We stayed on each other’s radar, barely:  followed each other on Twitter, Linkedin, email marketing list, etc.  Once during the year, I  emailed her after the launch of her redesigned website, which turned out really nice, and I complimented her on it.  We also both got more involved in social media with our small business clients, independently.

3.  Our paths then crossed again, at a second networking meeting (that I learned about through one of her email blasts).

4.  By now, we had much more in common.  PART of the rationale for subsequently deciding to work together came from what we were each doing independently in social media:  this certainly added both credibility and a comfort level. Part came from personal interactions.

Story # 2

1.  After joining the Board, I was added to the AMA’s national mailing list.  Months pass, and  then I receive this email:  another chapter was short judges for their annual marketing awards competition.  Would I volunteer?

2.  I do the judging.  Immediately following, I became aware of another judge, through an email he sent.  I had never encountered him before, but in his email signature he had all his social links clearly laid out, so I checked out, among other things, his social media blog, Marketing by Deepak, which I found absolutely inspiring and instructive.  What next?

3.  I emailed to introduce myself, followed him on twitter, tweeted about liking his blog.  This online conversation led to opportunity.  In the course of connecting, he offered, and I reciprocated, the opportunity to be guest bloggers, or find another way to capitalize on our common interest.

The bottom line: if you take the time to get involved, take initiative, reach out to people, put time and creative energy into new relationships, social media is a great tool.  But even before social media, these same ingredients led to success.  Nothing new here!

Being social online can do alot of things, but it can’t do all the heavy lifting.   Don’t neglect the personal factor.   My Dad (may he rest in peace) could have told me that…20 years ago!  And he didn’t even have a computer:)

PS:  If you delegate social media interactions instead of handling directly, due to time constraints or for other reasons, consider who you delegate to.  Does that person have the right instincts for presenting your business, initiating and cultivating relationships, capitalizing on subtle opportunities?  It’s not boilerplate by any means.  Food for thought.

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About Rhonda Hurwitz

Rhonda Hurwitz is a content strategist and marketing consultant who helps mid-sized businesses develop more effective online strategies. @rhondahurwitz on Twitter, and on Forbes.com: http://blogs.forbes.com/people/rhondahurwitz/
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3 Responses to The Role of Social Media in Business Development: A Virtual Handshake, or a Real One?

  1. espo1 says:

    Excellent work with the personal storytelling.
    Social media did seem to play a role in your outcome of working with these folks. As you kept track of the woman in your first story you reached out to her after noting that she had updated her website. You also did the same via e-mail to the fellow whose work you admired.
    Social media makes it easier to reach people with whom we would not be able to, ordinarily, connect with and establish a relationship. And that reach extends to almost anywhere in the world.
    Yet, your last point is telling. The key was that you were willing to put yourself out there and attempt to connect. It is that willingness that is so vital. Be it with a face-to-face handshake or a tweet.

    • Thanks for your comment, which summarized my idea really succinctly…with all these tools, the potential for new relationships and opportunities is amazing…worldwide reach, virtually free but for your time…but the willingness for engagement at a variety of touchpoints, both online and offline, with many, many people, without knowing in advance which seeds will sprout, is the key.

  2. SimpleSarah says:

    I got a lot out of this post – it’s important to make connections using social media but I definitely think that they wouldn’t last if we didn’t follow-up with some face time

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