Instagram, Facebook, Twitter–if the first thing that pops into your head is selfies, friends, and funny videos, you are using them all wrong, at least in the context of business development. Instead of thinking of social media as places to play or to kill time, think of these platforms as tools. They are a relatively new set of tools you can use to reach millions of people in ways you couldn’t have imagined only a few years ago, and all for free.
It used to be that if you wanted to have a conversation with someone, your only option was the telephone or knocking on doors. That’s not the case anymore. And having new tools means we now have new ways to work, if only we can adapt our practices to take advantage of them.
I personally used social media to find this internship with KazSource. I was sitting in my recliner watching a basketball game one night, when I realized that since top-notch employers weren’t going to just come to me, I’d have to go to them. So I took to Twitter, searching for possible internship opportunities in the Charlotte area. That’s when I found a tweet from Eric Kasimov, the CEO of KazSource, expressing the need for an intern. I messaged him about my interest in the position. Then we connected on LinkedIn, and spoke through email.
Of course, twenty years ago someone in my position could have responded to a want ad by telephone and achieved much the same result, but the ease of electronic conversation means you can connect with many more people. That translates into much more opportunity. And the existence of so many different kinds of social media platforms, each with its own focus and tools for sharing, means that we can connect in ways that would have been difficult or impossible even a few years ago. In my case, I was able to discover that the CEO of this company shares my love of sports. That sparked a conversation when I walked in the door for my interview.
After I walked in that door, of course, I had to fall back on old-school methods, such as a strong handshake, eye contact, and good conversation skills. Social media tools can get the conversation started, but they fit within a world of business relationships where the tactics and priorities are about the same as they ever were.
As my internship progressed, I learned about ways to use social media platforms to actually grow the business. The key, again, is relationship building.
For example, we might use Twitter to contact attendees of an event and ask what they thought of the speaker. This leads to a back and forth, and then emails, and then phone calls, and then sometimes a client. KazSource has earned business this way.
These tools are out there. They are available to help college students find internship opportunities, graduates find jobs, salespeople find new leads, and your business find new customers. By being deliberate in the way you utilize these social media tools, you’ll open up opportunities that would have been impossible just a few short years ago.