Online social networking: the new business imperative

If you’re not on social media now, you will lose opportunities and miss real breaking news and business intelligence that affects you directly, personally and professionally.Information is fluid like never before. If you’re not searching for breaking stories and finding them easily, there’s a good chance they will find you if you’re aware and paying attention. For a majority of engaged people today, the way to pay attention is to participate in online social media and keep an eye on what’s going on in your networks. You will spot immediate opportunities in a friendly setting, leading to meetings and new business. You may also learn disappointing news like I did on Facebook recently just before starting this article. It was kind of funny in a way and inspired me share the experience.A prospect unexpectedly started showing me a cold shoulder after being very interested in my proposal and insisted we expound on details. To comply with the request I worked my butt off, learning the following evening that it was completely for naught. The same morning I was sending the sweet new proposal, the prospect was meeting with the already chosen vendor. But that was unbeknownst to me until that night. And so, I heard not a peep from the client after calling and e-mailing messages to ask if she’d received it. The prospect “went dark.”I wrote this article on a Friday evening after seeing my worthy competitor’s happy Facebook post about how he met with this new client and started the project this morning. Had I not seen this, I would have eagerly attempted to follow up with the prospect that Monday morning. There is, however, the question about how I will respond when I speak with the prospect. Do I act surprised or do I tell her, “I know, I already read it on Facebook.” Do I call her and ask for the decision already knowing the answer? Who knows, something could change right? Highly unlikely, but anything’s possible. It’s a new world where picking up the phone and directly calling someone isn’t always the way to learn his intentions. Seeing a third party post somewhere on social media may get to you faster. Businesspeople have the shield of voicemail and need not bother returning calls. Giving bad news to someone isn’t pleasant anyway. Personally I would have preferred a phone call or even an e-mail directly from the person. I have always notified all parties, winners and losers, right away when I’ve made big decisions. To me, that’s noble.The good news about this new world of communication is that you and I can seize opportunities and build deeper relationships as we cultivate the right connections on LinkedIn, Facebook and other networks. We can learn the “scoop” before anyone else just by being alert. I’ve personally been given new business opportunities directly from my social media friends and connections. I’m much better educated in my profession from following selected thought leaders and bloggers on Twitter. This is where the passionate industry leaders are hanging out. This may be a rhetorical question, but why would any business person ignore this huge new marketplace of ideas, products and services?I encourage those who aren’t in this marketplace to jump in. Lots of people are still thinking about it and others are still skeptical and I don’t really blame them.There are pitfalls with social media too. Balancing your valuable time is one area you must be conscious of. As fascinating and fun online social networking can be, we should never ignore the real people sitting right across from us or calling us on the phone to talk. There is no substitute for live human contact. However, your computer can help facilitate more contacts and friendships than you may imagine.
Chuck Sink is a business development executive at wedü Inc. in Manchester. He may be reached at