On Tuesday I was interviewed by The Denver Post for an piece on Social Networks in the B2B space. The very next day I saw this poll on where Social Networks have the greatest business opportunity from participants and attendees (mostly VCs & C-level execs) at this week’s AlwaysOn conference.
I was pretty shocked at the lack of respect for the B2B space. I think the potential here is huge. There’s nothing more social or “niche” than your vertical, business and customers. Below are my unedited responses to the Denver Post interview questions on B2B Social Networks.
Is this a bandwagon effect with companies finally jumping on the latest Web trend?
I think there is some bandwagoning but the trend towards facilitating a more interactive and conversational tone is only getting stronger as the tools get better. Message boards have been around for a long time and they have always been a place where socializing and networking have taken place for like-minded people within a niche. The difference now is the tools provide for so many more things — adding layers of interest and engagement.
Will this space grow with better ways for companies to see an ROI?
The space will grow because consumers value this. ROI depends on the value you provide with the platform. In that way Social Networks are no different than any other product strategy. What communication problems does you network solve? What are you making easier for your clients? What benefits to your business and your clients can be derived from peer interactions? How does this create value for your brand and your sales team? Put metrics around the answers to these questions and you can easily measure ROI. I think there is a pot of gold in those answers for most organizations.
I think you’ll see companies leverage existing networks because of ease and to show the CEO that they are “doing something” but there is no real value creation there. Proprietary Social Networks work both on a comfort level and an ability to execute on solutions that are relevant to the unique needs of your business. If you are leveraging someone else’s network it’s not your own. I think the value proposition for doing it yourself is clear. The hard part is the strategy and execution.
Will the consumer (my reader) even want to join a social network related to a specific brand, or must it be infused with a service (Facebook) that they’re already familiar with?
Consumers have high affinity to brand so sure, they’ll join a social network because of that affinity. Don’t confuse this with success. Success in the mind of the consumer is the value of connecting to others that share their brand affinity and the services provided. This value can be delivered as simply as providing a fun place to waste time or actually adding important layers of interaction to a core product or service.
What do you think?