Inspiration comes to us in the strangest moments. A strike of genius wearing your lucky blazer. A pen and paper combo that houses with your best ideas. Transfer these habits to the digital landscape and you’re sure to find plenty of spaces that will lead you to a host of inspiration for business development opportunities.

Any seasoned BD (business development) person will tell you the best way to keep an edge on the competition is to always be (no, not closing) but informed. With sites like LinkedIn the workplace equivalent of Facebook, companies, competitors, employees are always sharing information. How can this affect your business development operations? Maybe there was an industry development that directly affects you or a client or prospect and somehow you missed it. That could be the difference between you maintaining or gaining a client. Opportunities can come and go as quickly as time ticks and it’s best to have an edge where and when you can.

Fear not, the blessing of social media properties like Twitter and LinkedIn is that with so much information available it’s likely to come down your pipe sooner than later. Vigilance however, is best practice. The easiest way to manage your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles for BD purposes is pretty simple. For LinkedIn connections or Twitter accounts to follow, look for people within your company, industry, or prospects that you’d like to pursue. Influencers or advocates are often sharing information that is on brand and informed with up-to-date information.

Official accounts of companies are an obvious follow but I’m going to ask you to put on your P.I. badge once again (just go with it). For example, if you’re looking to work with ‘Super Great Company A’ and you learn that ‘Super Great Employee B’ has a Twitter handle as directed in their LinkedIn profile, check them out on Twitter. This is a no brainer. It’s important to remember, as a public tool, we’re all trading and sharing information. Whether you’re sharing we’re hiring for A, or looking for information about B, or announcing C. Everyone is doing it.

As a research tool, it’s invaluable. I’m showing a lot of love to Twitter in this post because I think as a digital repository of information, professionally speaking, it’s the top of the heap. While most our profiles state “opinions are our own” and “do not reflect that of our employers”, we all talk. Encouraging conversation with an interested party or discovering something about a prospect that could change the outcome or an opportunity I have two words for you, get online.

Customer insights are everywhere online. Social listening is a sure way to discover what customers are saying about your brand and industry. Listening tools that will scale as your customer base does like Hootsuite Insights for example, is a great tool to gather granular customer data that will enable you to make real-time, smarter business decisions. What better way to discover not only what your customers/prospects think of your business or brand but also to see what they think of your competition.

As I mentioned earlier, inspiration finds us in the strangest moments. That moment online could be the discovery an industry wide issue that you can be the first to tackle. Happy listening, happy sharing, happy discovering and good luck.

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