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Good business is personal. Always was, always will be.

Using Social Media for Business

If relationships matter in your business, so should social media.

A lot of people — especially people my age — still aren’t sure about what social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium et al have to do with business. Here’s my attempt to connect the dots with as little fluff, text, and judgement as possible.

Maybe there’s a business out there where relationships don’t matter; where buyers have unlimited capacity to acquire options and information, clinically quantify and evaluate features and price points, and make decisions immune from the soft sway of how they feel about the problem at hand, the people trying to solve it, or the state of their own lives and careers. If such a business exists, I have yet to encounter it.

In those I do encounter, every day, none of those things are true. In the real world people depend on relationships with other people to make buying decisions. Through dialogue they sift through the noise of overlapping problems, hidden root causes, competing claims, and fuzzy math to make decisions about what to buy and whom to buy it from.

Emotion plays an important role in every deal, no matter what the stakes or how high the price involved. It’s how we’re wired. In recent years it’s been empirically proven that our feelings help us make better decisions by applying the filter of intuition in separating fact from fiction, learning from experience, and over-weighting information sources we can trust.

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So if that’s how buyers buy, how should sellers sell?

Let me ask you this… If you were at a party and heard a heated conversation was underway in the next room about the very problem your product solves — among people looking to solve it — would you make a point to walk over and listen in? Would you try to identify the key people in that conversation, determine who had authority and who was ready to buy? Would you look for an opportunity to contribute something, add value, build rapport, and eventually offer up your product as a way to help?

Of course you would.

Well that “party” is happening right now on Twitter, LinkedIn, here on Medium, or over on somebody’s blog someplace. The still-painful truth is that most executives over 30 are too ignorant or too lazy to walk over, listen politely for a while, say something smart, and ask to follow up. And that’s a shame.

That’s really all it is, folks. The conversations people are having about their problems and how to solve them are happening more and more online, more and more through social accounts right next to cat pics and all the rest. Look past the occasional silliness of the medium and the unnatural mechanics for those of us who graduated college last century and eventually you’ll find a conversation worth participating in. Not as an obnoxious party-crasher bent on schilling your own wares, but as a regular human being, willing to listen, looking to contribute, focused on building relationships over time, and able to solve problems in the context of those relationships.

Opportunities don’t knock. When you find them, they’re usually hidden, most often disguised as other people’s problems.

Start by listening carefully for those problems at the bigger parties, and lay low until you get the lay of the land. When you find third party perspectives worth sharing, just do so with links and maybe a personal anecdote or two that starts people getting to know you. When an original idea, observation, or insight strikes you, publish it someplace, and then make some effort to get it out to wherever the people it might help are gathered.

Listen, engage, contribute. Lather, rinse, repeat. Establishing the habit may require some discipline, but in time you’ll start building the relationships that matter in your business. And that is very valuable thing indeed.

Written by

Venture storyteller, wartime consiglieri, lyrical gangsta. Partner, G20 Ventures, thoughts here are my own.

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