B2B Social Networks – Yes!

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.

Will companies look to leverage existing social networks first (LinkedIn, Facebook) before turning to white-label solutions like HiveLive and Omnifuse?

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?

4 thoughts on “B2B Social Networks – Yes!

  1. You’re right on the target. It’s always nice to use another network; how many time do we hear, what’s your Facebook plan?
    But it’s better having your own. Whether it’s a B2B or B2C, pretty much anyone can create its own network. Build it on someone else by adding layers or from scratch but the key is adding value.
    Do you provide an engaging user experience, is it build around your brand or someone else, what’s your network’s goals, how can you provide a ROI for yourself or someone else are more important question.
    It’s still hard to resist pressures to be at the actual cool place to be (aka Facebook) because everyone is talking about it and its the “thing” to do right now.
    The temptation to take the easy road or “me too” is and will always be there. But the rewards always goes to the real innovators.


  2. I think small business owners especially wrongly lump all social media in with negative perceptions about MySpace.
    However the B2B social networking space is still in the very early stages of evolving. Maybe 3rd or 4th inning at the absolute most.
    Millions of small businesses annually turn to industry trade groups, chamber of commerce organizations, and lead sharing organizations for offline networking.
    It’s only a matter of time before that entire experience (and then some) can be “virtualized”.
    Joshua Feinberg


  3. As a sales professional I can tell you it is already a whole different process reaching C level managers from what it was ten years ago. Sales execs everywhere are scrambling to learn the new rules and it’s not really clear yet how to efficiently create your own brand. Hundreds of thousands of these people are trying the goofiest things, buying up all the how-to online video courses, tweeting this and that, joining 40 LinkedIn groups, etc. Ok I admit, so have I.
    You are probably right that the best energies will end up being spent on networking groups which may not even have been invented yet. Groups which function with smooth precision and act as strategic partnering machines. Then they have to bridge the virtual world to the physical world through various types of meet-ups.
    Great article. Thanks.


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