Whether you’re looking to hire, gain new clients or just meet like-minded business leaders, social media is a highly effective way to find new connections. While it can seem intimidating or impersonal to reach out online, social media often gives you access to rich, relevant information about a person’s professional background that can help you forge a strong relationship.
Many members of Forbes Business Council understand the art of making business connections through social media. We asked 15 of them to share the most important thing small business leaders should remember when seeking to make connections via social media. Their responses are below.
1. Aim To Start A Conversation
A rule of thumb to remember when making any internet connection is that people are generally jaded from making multitudes of introductions with strangers that never amount to anything. Go beyond the copy/paste message or click of the accept button. Make an effort to start a conversation or begin a target-specific interaction with a party you are truly interested in doing business with. – Adelheid Waumboldt, ISET Agency
2. Demonstrate Value Upfront
Build relationships and demonstrate value for your social media connections without demanding something in return or being solicitous. Demonstrate your thought leadership, knowledge and credibility first and foremost. People will feel compelled to share your content and be more likely to see you as a key resource for meeting their needs and building a strong community of trust. – David Crean, Objective Capital Partners, LLC
3. Practice Empathy
Be forgiving. People will often portray themselves differently through social media and other forms of digital communication. If you get a response that sounds off-putting, take a moment before you respond. Try to have a bit of empathy to understand where they’re coming from. You’ll make more friends than enemies, and you’ll close more deals in the long run. – Corey Lewis, 1AND1 Life
4. Be Your Authentic Self
As a small business leader, you represent both your personal brand and your company’s brand. Be as authentic as possible is key. A year ago, we were certified by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) as a diversity-owned business. While it doesn’t define who we are and what we offer clients, it does define our relationships with clients as open and authentic. – Andy Seibert, Imprint
5. Make It Heartfelt
People have a greater propensity for connecting when it has to do with vulnerability rather than a transaction. Heartfelt messages tend to invite a real, impactful response, whereas a comment that portrays assertiveness and aggression can be off-putting. As small business leaders, we have the opportunity to state a case with optimism, realism and passion while offering a connection to collaborate. – Shamini Dhana, Dhana Inc.
6. Do Your Research First
When you change your title to CEO, you immediately get bombarded with spam and people asking for something without providing you with anything. We only engage people on social media that we’ve researched beforehand so that we can really engage them in a meaningful way that provides them with value. It’s extra work, but that extra work makes you stand out. – Maurice Harary, The Bid Lab
7. Explore Audience Behavior
Understanding your audience’s behavior is key to driving your business’ growth using social networks. In other words, increase the usage of social media as a tool for engagement and communication rather than merely as an active promotional platform. Observe how your audience interacts with you and what their interests are. – Beth Worthy, GMR Transcription Services, Inc
8. Seek Common Goals Or Interests
9. Keep Up Your Own Social Presence
Make sure your social media presence is up-to-date. This includes having recent posts, a decent number of followers and a bio and banner that clearly speak about what services/products you provide. If someone reaches out to me via Facebook and their company page is outdated or with low activity, my first thought is that they are not serious about their company. – Meghan Gardner, Guard Up, Inc.
10. Get To Know Them
It is very important to understand that everyone doing business with you is a person with a story. Get to know them personally and try to establish a respectful, meaningful relationship with them. Business should always come naturally. If they can relate with you better as a person, you have more chances to have a lasting business relationship with them. – Syed Gilani, Safr Technologies Inc
11. Stay True To Your Business Culture
Authenticity is felt, even through your social media. You want to stay on brand and true to your business culture and vibe. It’s important to not flip-flop your stance for anything just to appeal to the masses. When you’re authentic, you appeal to your true demographic and those customers and clients will advocate for you. Just do you, be unapologetic about it and proud! – Hoda Mahmoodzadegan, BAḴT Global
12. Approach It Based On Their Values
Remember, they don’t care about what you offer or how well you offer it. They care about their problems, profit, comfort, company, family and what they get. Remember to focus on the value they get and not on the super-duper functionality/capabilities you, your product and your organization provide. – Sid Mohasseb, Anabasis, Inc / Venture Farm
13. Be Multidimensional And Real
Although we are experts within discrete industry sectors, we also have a more diverse and broad-based knowledge beyond one single area of concentration. Being able to discuss and share information on a variety of topics allows our existing followers and potential new online friends to get a sense of our personalities, interests and values. This is a more natural approach to building connections. – Denise Caron-Quinn, In Order to Succeed®
14. Listen To Their Needs
As small business owners, we are many times so concerned with getting our message out or selling our business to others that we fail to take the time to listen to our potential clients and colleagues. We have to remember that when we have a service or product to provide, it’s all about how we can do something for someone else. If we listen to their needs and wants, we will be more successful. – Edward Alvarez, Edward A Alvarez, DDS, PC/NYCLaserDentist
15. Send A Personalized Message
First of all, make sure your message is in their interest–not yours. To this end, you should do your research and know the basics about the people you are reaching out to. Communicate the value of being connected. Show them what’s in it for them and personalize your message. – Jason Richmond, Ideal Outcomes, Inc.