Guest blog: Using social media to build viable business relationships

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

By Hana Bieliauskas

In today's digital landscape, business relationships are increasingly built and maintained through social media. From business development to professional development, lead generation to customer engagement, job searching to recruitment, networking is happening constantly online. Virtual handshakes are taking place right now between professionals living miles, or even oceans, apart, via a single tweet.

But, can viable business relationships really be built through social media networking? Here are a few rules to keep in mind to make that a "yes."

1. Select where to engage. Identify which social media platforms colleagues, industry peers, clients or stakeholders are actively using. Note what individuals include in their profiles, who they are talking with and what they're sharing. Just as when formulating a business plan, take stock of the competition, too. Who is using social media effectively to meet business goals, and using which network(s)?

2. Be transparent. Connecting on social shouldn't be like going on a blind date. Instead of sending a generic "I'd like to add you to my professional network" LinkedIn invitation, draft a personalized note. Mention shared business goals, interests, potential opportunities, reasons for getting in touch. Break the ice and be up-front about who you are and why you're reaching out.

3. Social media and face-to-face networking go hand-in-hand. Social media is a great tool for facilitating introductions, which can lead to meetings, further discussion and ongoing partnerships. Tools such as LinkedIn can be valuable for follow-ups. In addition, after a meeting or an event-whether it was in-person, via conference call or webinar-connect soon on social media with individuals who attended.

4. Continue the conversation. Social media isn't meant to be a one-sided conversation. Once introduced and connected, keep the dialogue going, just like after physically meeting someone. I follow PR professionals on Twitter and engage with them daily. I often retweet content they've posted. If possible, try meeting connections offline, too. Set up lunch or coffee, or let them know when you'll be in town.

5. Remember that digital doesn't mean any less personal. Just because the person standing in front of you doesn't mean the traditional networking etiquette rules get thrown out the door. Be polite, professional and engaging. Make sure social media profiles, interactions and outreach accurately represent your brand.

Some of today's top business leaders have large, engaged networks both online and offline with whom they frequently interact. Social media has helped them build strong personal brands, greatly expand their reach and credibility and forge connections near and far.

Hana Bieliauskas leads digital and social media at Inspire PR Group, a public relations firm headquartered in Columbus. She can be reached at (513) 919-1880 or via email at