business search through social mediaWhen you need to hire a contractor or seek a partner, how do you decide which companies to consider and choose a winner? Sure, you could do a Google search and Better Business Bureau check. And those are good places to start. Still it only reveals so much about a business.

A company’s website is another useful source. But it only tells you what the company wants you to know. Many company sites read like a marketing brochure or may not provide the information you want to know.

Social media, on the other hand, tells you much more about people and companies than you can get from searching, BBB and corporate websites. The caveat is that it only works for companies with employees who are active in social media. But when they are, you can learn a lot.

Social media involves two-way conversations. How a company handles queries and interacts in social media gives you clues about its culture, customer service and personality.

You can also listen to what people say about the company and its products. What are they saying? Is it positive? Negative? Informative? Educational? Is the company responding? How does it respond? What tone of voice does it use in its replies?

Here’s what to look for to learn more about a company on social media.

Review their connections. Look for common connections between you and the company. Contact those sources for insights into the company. Is the company connected to known and respected people in its industry? Does it connect with customers, partners and employees?

Find out what kind of work the company does for clients. Use this to see if the company is connected with people in that industry or field.

For example, a company claims it has SEO expertise with a focus on helping software companies. Look to see if the company is connected to SEO and digital marketing influencers, analysts, experts, and companies. Then check the other part of the equation, which would be connections to people in the software business.

Check out their followers. Now for the flip side, who follows the company? Are there names you recognize? What kinds of people follow them? Look for thought leaders, customers, employees, and partners.

Study their interactions. Some companies never respond when they’re mentioned in social media, and that doesn’t bode well for their customer service. At a minimum, companies need to monitor, listen, and respond in social media.

What kind of interactions do they have with others? Are they being ignored? Are they ignoring others? Do they command respect? How quickly do they reply? (The faster, the better. But within 24 hours on weekdays is good.) How do they respond to problems, complaints, and other negative comments? What’s the tone of their replies?

Verify their expertise and experience. How long have they been in business? What level of expertise do they have? Studying their comments and shared sources should give you an idea if they’re beginners, intermediate, or experts in their subject matter. You can also look to see if their employees present at conferences, get quoted in respected publications, and publish articles and papers.

Look at the content they share. What kind of content are they sharing? What’s the quality of the resource? It is mostly self-serving? Do the resources indicate they have a deep understanding of the topic? Is it hype, superficial, or meaningful?

Do they share personal things? Is it too personal or does it let you get to know employees better? Do they support nonprofit or charitable organizations?

Read their recommendations and reviews. Do they have recommendations and reviews that validate their areas of expertise? What kind of recommendations do they receive? Is it lukewarm, somewhere in the middle, or enthusiastic? Who do the recommendations come from? Are any from partners, clients, and employees?

Check out the LinkedIn groups they join. What LinkedIn groups are they in? Does it make sense? Look to see if they’re in groups related to their industry, the type of work they do, and their customers. If they belong to others, what are they?

Yes, companies can edit, and even delete, what they share online. Even so, social media creates an environment that encourages people and companies to divulge their true selves, their thinking process, and their personalities. What will people learn about you and your company?

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