Just 10 years ago, an ambitious entrepreneur looking for investors would need to make countless phone calls, send dozens of emails, and travel to meetings.

Those elements are still an important part of getting your business off the ground, but today, the fast rise of social media means that the venture capital (VC) process often begins online.

Many entrepreneurs have leveraged social media to develop meaningful partnerships with investors. Conversely, many investors have also used social media to find new companies to invest in. Here’s a more detailed look at how social media has impacted the venture capital world.

AngelList: A Specialist Social Network

Although entrepreneurs have the option to reach out to venture capitalists on public social networks, one of the best chances for success is to use a specialized social network called AngelList. The website is designed specifically to connect angel investors with startups in need of funding.

The platform allows you to search by person or startup. An investor might seek out promising new ventures here, or an entrepreneur can approach a potential benefactor with his or her pitch. Either party can narrow down searches by location, industry, or people’s names. The network also allows you to create a profile akin to an online dating site. You list your past projects or investments, as well as what you are looking for in a professional partner.

AngelList has helped some high-profile companies, including Pinterest, Uber, and BranchOut, to find supporters and hefty sums of backing capital. A startup founder will need to make a strong impression and bring serious VC savvy to the table to attract serious attention, but this specialized social network can give you a leg up in the hunt for backing.

Reaching out on Twitter

The other common option for early communication between VCs and entrepreneurs is Twitter. Just searching “angel investor” on the network yields the accounts of some of the most successful and prolific benefactors. This is a good approach for researching the type of companies that are most appealing to a particular investor. Many angel investors are vocal on Twitter, both in promoting the companies they’ve funded and discussing the general VC environment.

Many of the angel investors on Twitter are individuals. However, startup accelerators and venture capital firms are also active on the platform such as Highland Capital Partners, Azure Capital Partners, and General Catalyst Partners — to name a few. Following these accounts can be helpful for learning about the corporate side of the coin. You can also engage with VC firms where you might want to pitch a more established business seeking financing.

What This Means for Startup Culture

It seems likely that the entrepreneurial field will continue to center on social media. As more and more professionals communicate for business and pleasure online, that trend will assuredly continue. Considering how many highly visible angel investors were early backers of Twitter, it makes sense that it’s the network of choice for hopeful innovators seeking to make first contact.

The strong presence of social media within the VC scene is also indicative of the industries that seem most promising. Online networks and tech are king, both in terms of the background of angel investors and the startups seeking funds.

That doesn’t mean projects outside the tech sphere have no shot, but it does mean that any aspiring CEO should take the search for investors to the social networks. You should maintain your personal and company accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to make the best impression possible. Be prepared to communicate on these channels for many business needs, even after you’ve locked down your financing.

Have you had any interactions with investors or VCs on social media? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credits: Tax Credits, Bridget Coila, Joi Ito, 410 (K) 2012]