Building Business Relationships

Are you struggling to create and keep profitable customers? Columns for Sales and Marketing Management who wants to build business relationships.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003

How I Use Social Software For Stronger Business Relationships

In a recent piece I talked a little about how social software can help track business relationships, today I'd like to share how I'm using this same tool in my business. As someone who teaches others about cultivating profitable business relationships, I hope you gain some insight about how I practice what I preach.

First, I use social software to extend my reach around my focus of executive relationships.  I see this type of tool as a part of tracking relationships, so I must consider their use. Many systems I had considered were overly burdened with personal chatter and people connecting for the sake of connection-- not to conduct any business.

Quite a few social software environments are built around dating services, entertainment, or social connections. For example, I use Meetup to find tennis partners in the local area, connect with other bloggers, and connect with other business coaches. Ecademy has both business and social aspects, it hosts a semi-promotional weblog and provides schedules of club events.

Secondly, each social software system lets me tell others who I am through a profile. A profile lets you tell others about the resources you have, benefits of working with you, resources you seek, and other aspects of you as an individual. My provides also introduce new people to my expertise, publications, and other profiles.

My Social Network Profiles: Ecademy | LinkedIn | Spoke | Ryze | Ingenio

Right now each profile is pretty much the same across each site. However, I will tailor my profiles as I become more familiar with the needs of my target audience of senior level executives and business owners who are represented in the social software's community. Remember, not all networks will contain all people you are looking to reach.

Next, I try to be someone of value to the community who may visit my profile. Social software isn't always about what you can get, like business relationships, it requires a lot of giving before you're noticed. On Ecademy I share my opinion with articles, comments on messages, and weblog entries. I've joined networks (clubs) over at Ryze.

Right now I'm primarily using these interactions to study the usefulness of such mediums. It seems a lot of people just want to chat about things and the real decision makers aren't in the systems. At times I'm convinced that social software is a tool of the unproductive, until I met more serious business networks like LinkedIn and Spoke.

Like any community you only get what you put in. The relationship strategies I share here apply in social software environments. I've gained new clients and business partners through each network, but that's not my primary interest of participating. In fact, you should only have one reason of accessing these environments, that one reason is to...

Connect with existing customers to make sure you satisfy their every desire

I've learned more about my existing customers by taking this final step.  After focusing on my area of expertise, creating a profile, and seeking to provide value-- I have created more return by using social software to improve the relationships I already have.

The same things you should have in your profile are already in profiles of some of the people you'll want to connect. I look at my customers and what they say they need. I look at who they are talking with, and I ask them questions. Social software helps me get closer to the customers I already have.

When you build strong relationships with the people you already reach, others in these social environments will notice and be attracted to you. My profiles don't get much attention, but my comments and off-line interactions have been priceless.

On LinkedIn, I'm learning more about my newsletter subscribers and those who take benefit from registering at my site.  I gain demographic details about individuals, while learning more about the concerns they have in business. Turns out some of my subscribers own companies that sell things that some of my clients need.

I find the profiles useful to perform due-diligence on prospective vendors and strategic partners. You can learn a lot from information people freely give away. Usually, I'll trace back an email address to a company and some social software systems are integrated with news reporting tools.

I'm able to connect clients with resources in a meaningful way, which increases my value to them.  By using social networks to fill other needs of customers, your relationship with them will grow stronger. This can be a lot of work, but social software includes search features that simplify finding that right person. (It's kind of like being at a networking event and reading everyones pitch all at once.)

If you have any questions about what I'm doing with social software, I'd be happy to answer them. Just comment on this note or write me by email. I'm pushing Spoke to support my contact managers and see some positive venture capital moving toward these networks. Take a moment to look over my profiles and see where social software can help you track business relationships.

/ executive-relations | relationship-realms /

Justin Hitt helps executives build profitable relationships with customer, employees, and strategic partners. He can be reached by phone at +1 (877) 207-3798 or on-line at

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