If you were planning on dating someone met online, you’d want to find out everything you could before committing to a real date. That’s the way it is when choosing a vendor for your business: you want to find out if they have a reputation for breaking (business) hearts or for being dependable.
Using Social Media to Make Good Business Decisions
In 2009 PR Newswire reported that a whopping 86% of recruiters use social media to research candidates and make the right hiring decisions. As business people we can use the same techniques to help us make the right decisions when it comes to determining which businesses to work with or to outsource to. It is important to get the right people on the bus and social media can be a great tool to help you determine whether or not to work with a vendor (or even a potential new client). This blog post is aimed at showing you how.
Social media is a tool for connecting, communicating and building community but it can also be great for research and that is exactly what you should do when making any important entrepreneurial decision. Gone are the days when you had to rely on gut instinct and the assurances of your prospective business partner.
When I meet with a potential client for the first time or talk with a would be vendor or supplier, I always do some due diligence to find out a bit about them in advance but also to make sure that they are who they say they are and that they are the right calibre of business or professional to work with Out-Smarts. I am not being arrogant here but exemplary customer service is paramount and if we make the wrong decisions in the court ship phase of a relationship it can often come back to haunt us down the road and we don’t like doing anything that will jeopardize the standard of our work.
Social Media for Due Diligence
When conducting due diligence like this, the first thing I do, after checking out their website (and especially their testimonials) is to Google the name of the business person in question as well as the company. A Google search can tell you a lot about the person’s personal brand online and will often deliver the pertinent search results you are looking for. But this is all very well and handy when the name is unique (try Googling Mhairi Petrovic – I think I might be the only person on the planet with this name) but the same cannot be said for the John Smiths of the world.
Social Media Research Tools
One way to hone in on the right person to research and find out a bit about them is to use Pipl. Pipl comes in extremely handy if the person in question has a common name because it allows you to narrow it down by place. Pipl is a simple tool which searches the “deep” web for mentions so the results are often quite extensive. Simply enter the first name, last name, city, state and country to start the process. The results that are delivered provide a comprehensive list of mentions across the web with links to the source content so that you can check out the person.
A similar tool to Pipl is Social Mention which provides real time social media search and analysis. Unlike Pipl, which is centred on people, Social Mention delivers search results on any term you choose to enter – this can be an individual’s or company’s name or any word or phrase you want to search for. You can search across blogs, comments, bookmarks and more or you can do a universal search.
Another approach, and one of the best ways to research a business or an individual, is to use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the largest “professional” social network with over 90 million LinkedIn users worldwide (3m in Canada) as of January and this means that, if you want to find out about a professional or business person there’s a really good chance that there will be on there. There were nearly two billion people searches on LinkedIn in 2010 and over 1 million companies have a presence there. Its search functionality is great but the most beneficial aspect of LinkedIn is that once you have found the right person you can review their professional profile to check out their references and to see if anyone else in your network is connected with them. We humans are social people, if we find that someone we know has given the person or business a good reference on LinkedIn then we are much more likely to trust and work with them.
No Active Presence?
So what happens if you do all this research and fail to come up with any information at all about the vendor or business person? You’ve done your digging but they don’t have a presence online. Well, it’s up to you whether to work with them or not but in my personal opinion, in this day and age if someone isn’t even slightly active online, you have to question their commitment to their business. My advice would be to give them a wide berth.
One last thing to consider is that this is not a one way street: the chances are that the next time you meet with a prospect they will have done their research online as well and this time you or your business is in the spotlight. So, it’s always a good idea to run through the steps outlined above, check out your own profile online and ask yourself – would you do business with you?
Just like find out about someone before going on a first date, do your research and sleuth work in advance before embarking on that first business “date”, it can help you avoid a costly “divorce” or worse in the long run and the tools to allow you to do so are at your fingertips.