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Using Social Media to Build Your Business

If you haven’t noticed, there is a new sheriff in town and its name is Social Media, led by the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. As newspapers go under, these upstart social media networks are getting billion-dollar valuations. Facebook is worth, on paper at least, more than General Motors, Chrysler or Ford — maybe even more than all three combined. Fueling this frenzy is the exponential growth in subscribers and the business relationships they represent. Social media looks a lot like the Web revolution of the ‘90s, and it’s here to stay.

Whether you’re a business owner, channel manager, sales professional, sales engineer or even a lead generator, social media can provide a tremendous competitive advantage for you and your business.

LinkedIn is the clear leader in this space, so this article will focus there. First, let’s look at how specific individuals in the channel can use LinkedIn to grow their business opportunities:

*Business Owners. As the chief executive, your credibility is at one with the credibility of your business. When potential business partners see your credentials on LinkedIn, you are halfway to creating that important business relationship — before you speak the first word.

*Sales Managers. Got some targeted accounts? Got specific territories that you sell to or wish to sell into? A database of prospects on LinkedIn is just a few keystrokes away. Need some hot candidates to fill sales positions? LinkedIn works very well there, too.

*Account Managers, Sales Representatives, Sales Engineers. Wouldn’t it be great to have pages and pages of prospects, complete with loads of background intelligence at your disposal? Want to sell more to existing accounts? Farming is a terrific application for LinkedIn.

The LinkedIn applications that provide the most immediate results for these channel players include:

  • Discovering new business prospects, business partners, lead sources (prospecting)
  • Researching individuals and companies to select who is best for you (targeting and qualifying)
  • Engaging the highest value targets (business development)
  • Getting noticed on the Internet and on social media platforms (marketing)

So, let’s map out the process to get established, fluent and making business happen with LinkedIn. This methodology, pioneered by Integrated Alliances, makes LinkedIn adoption logical, systematic and relatively easy to implement.

  1. The first step is to create your identity — your LinkedIn Profile. This identifies you, your work history and skill sets and gives you credibility to participate in the LinkedIn world.
  2. Once your profile is completed, it is network-building time — connecting to other individuals on LinkedIn. When you have a larger network, you will realize more search results and you will have more intersections with others. My network, for example, has 22,000 direct connections, so I get a lot of results when I search.

      3. With a profile completed and an initial network built, it is time to find the people and the resources that can lead you to a prospect, a partner or even a job. Searching can be based on keywords, company names, individuals, locations, industries, etc. There are lots of options. They combine to provide you with laser-targeted results. You might be seeking to find systems installers, Cisco VARs, Microsoft systems integrators, cable installers or even carrier reps. When you identify these individuals, you are presented with a great deal of information about them. This makes the relationship building process much smoother.

      4. Now that you know who to contact, you need to understand how to contact them. There are different strategies that apply in different situations as follows:

  • Introductions – The LinkedIn Introduction function mirrors everyday life for sales professionals. Isn’t it nice to have someone introduce you and set you up for the call?
  • Invitations – The LinkedIn Invitation process connects your LinkedIn contacts network to theirs, growing your base of prospects quickly and systematically by increasing your Tier 1 connections. You have access to their networks and to the networks of their connections as well.
  • Messages – LinkedIn’s Message function lets connected individuals communicate much like an e-mail message. It is direct from one person to another. So, if one is connected, the first part of the message usually says so, “We are connected on LinkedIn … .” It establishes the relationship immediately.

If you are a paid LinkedIn user, LinkedIn offers InMail messages. These allow you to send direct messages to an individual that may be a second- or third-level connection. A message here might be: “I found you when I was searching on LinkedIn for ______ and I see you are _______.

Using these tips, you can get started on the path to realizing business advantages of using social media.

Mike O’Neil is president and founder of Integrated Alliances, a business social networking company offering LinkedIn training and other social media training. Prior to 2003, O’Neil worked as a sales engineer, teaching salespeople how to sell technology products and training customers to use technology products in their businesses. He can be found on all the major social media platforms by visiting www.mikeisonline.com.

Looking for More?

Hear more of Mike O’Neil’s advice for using social media to advance your channel business at the Fall 2009 Channel Partners Conference & Expo, Sept. 23-25, in Miami. For more info, click here.


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