Social media is increasingly being used to create engagement with customers and prospects and is as integral a part of many organisations’ marketing mix as a website, PR or advertising (actually probably more so than high cost activities such as advertising!). But is ‘increasing sales’ the be all and end all objective for social media?
Many businesses, and particularly smaller ones, are seeing the value that social media has for creating collaboration: finding like-minded professionals and organisations they can work with to create bigger opportunities, enhance their product/service offering or just learn from to improve what they do. More and more businesses are being born from conversations started on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked In.
So why would you want to collaborate? What benefits could that bring to your business?
You may think that your precious time is most productively reserved for focusing on attracting customers but you may be missing out on a movement that is having a huge influence on developing businesses. The benefits of collaboration could be as follows;
- To enable you to pitch for and deliver larger projects
- To compliment your skill set
- To be included in your partners’ opportunities
- To create new revenue streams/business ventures
- To add new products and services to your portfolio
- To reduce the reliance on yourself
- To create a ‘contingency plan’
- To increase your resource
So how do you go about it then?
Well the principles of attracting ‘partners’ isn’t really so different to those for attracting customers. If anything it may be easier as your potential collaborators have as much to gain from the arrangement as you do. As with any social media it can take time to establish yourself – don’t go bombarding people with invitations to form businesses before they’ve even got to know you! The following strategies can help you build trust and credibility;
- Establish yourself as an expert in your field
- Demonstrate that you are committed to adding value for your audiences
- Demonstrate the range of services and products that you offer
- Provide details of the kind of projects/business you are working on
- Create a personality for your business – people want to work with ‘people’, not ‘companies’
- Communicate that you are open to developing partnerships
- Establish a niche
- Monitor potential partners to establish whether you want to work with them
- Strengthen your positioning
- Encourage advocacy
Once you establish yourself and start to build your following (and are following others) start to identify the kind of people you’d like to work with and engage them in direct conversation. Build the relationship and dig a little deeper to establish whether they are like-minded, that they fit your objectives in terms of personality, skills, background, profile etc. Open the dialogue regarding forming partnerships, it may be that you start to converse outside the constraints of the social media platforms via e-mail, phone, skype etc. Gauge whether they would be interested in working together and even look out for opportunities that you could share. The nature of social media means that you don’t necessarily need to be geographically close to work together!
Laura & Louise is one such an example of this in practice. Louise Gibbs speaks of how social media helped her develop a new business idea with Laura Summers
“Laura and I first got in touch through Twitter, we shared several tweets and discovered we both had young children and were launching our own businesses.
Through Laura’s business (Petit Poppet) she has many parents asking for her advice on baby wearing and sling advice & following many late night discussions (all through twitter, facebook or Skype!) we realised that we were both being regarded as experts in our own fields.
We felt there was a gap in the online presence of accessible parenting advice – and thus set up Laura and Louise. A question and answer platform where parents can ask any question they have and we have an incredible line up of experts that will help us to give a full and detailed answer. We have been extremely lucky to have found a great friendship that we can base our business on, both having some great contacts from our individual businesses and we are thrilled with the success of the launch of L&L.
We have done all of this collaborative work and only met in person for the first time recently. We live in different parts of the country. The distance has not been a problem though, we work most evenings online together – via skype.
Our advice for others looking to use social media is to Do It! It has grown both of our individual businesses and has been a huge push and success of our launch of L&L that we already have followers and customers that like our products and trust our professional friendly approach. We are big advocates for social media!
A full report on developing collaborative working partnerships via social media, packed full of tips, strategies and advice, is available as a download here. Simply register with the site to access this and other FREE marketing resources.