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Jody Nimetz on Emerging Trends in B2B Social Networking
Sunday, November 18, 2007
On Friday I had the pleasure of having a discussion (call it an interview if you would like) with the VP of The ILO Institute, Christian Hamilton about the role of social networks in the B2B arena. We discussed the viability of social networks as they pertain to B2B. In addition we discussed emerging B2B social networking sites.

We started off by discussing the fact that the B2B world has been slow to adapt to using social networking as a tool for business development. In fact, according to a Nov. 2006 B2B study by Knowledgestorm Inc. and Universal McCann, 77% of respondents have little or no interaction with social networks. B2B organizations have in fact been slow to adopt to using social networks. The reason for this? Many B2B site owners either do not see social networking playing a role in their business development or do not understand what an online social network is. In the online sense, a social network is an online community that creates an environment that enables a dialog between people to share information and values over the Internet.

So what is the role of social networking in the B2B arena? Well that depends on what your goals are. There are five main benefits for businesses to use social networking.

Social Network Benefits to the B2B World

Social Networks can be:
  • Used to create Brand Awareness
  • Used as an online reputation management tool
  • For Recruiting
  • Used to learn more about new technologies and competitors
  • Used as a lead gen tool to intercept potential prospects
There are some businesses and corporations that are currently leveraging social networks and online communities to their advantage. These corporations are using these communities to:
  • Create brand awareness through the release of things such as widgets
  • Create buzz about upcoming product releases
  • Using social networks to drive traffic to their online web properties where they hope to entice users to engage with their sites and their products or solutions
  • Some businesses are even creating their own social communities to encourage viral discussions about their products, and/or to act like a feedback mechanism about their product/service (for business improvements)
  • Many corporations are now beginning to use social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn as tools for recruiting new talent. By creating Facebook Groups some HR departments are using social networks to obtain more insight into potential new hires.
The Future of Social Networking with B2B

Products such as Google’s Open Social may spark interest from the B2B crowd in social networking. OpenSocial is simply a set of programming standards that let developers create applications that can run on a wide range of social networking platforms. But more importantly, OpenSocial has the promise of letting regular people choose which social networks they want to run those applications on.

With an increase in user-generated content on the Web, the user (or consumer) is in control. As a result, traditional push marketing strategies will not work. Consumers want to be associated with friends and family. They want to frequent online "environments" where there is a certain amount of trust and interest shared by the community.

The Internet is a powerful tool for quickly reaching the masses. As a result, Social Networks will become more important for organizations to intercept their target markets. In the future, instead of many social networks there may be one large repository of social networks where users have one login and password to login to their network of choice. Similar to a personalized iGoogle page where users can drag and drop their preferred content of choice to their own page. The individual user will determine which "social network" they participate in.

While we might see some B2B organizations create their own online communities, social networking will become not an option but a necessity to understand the needs and wants of their prospects and clients. Establishing trust with users and generating brand awareness will force B2B companies to become more involved in social networking.

About the ILO Institute

The ILO Institute is a research-driven membership organization focused on helping large companies innovate. Their members come from every industry and include Walt Disney, Whirlpool, Dell Computer, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Kraft Foods, and about 60 others. The ILO Institute conducts research for their members on a wide variety of topics. The I L O Institute delivers member-directed research executed by a dedicated staff of analysts and research professionals, and offers highest-level dialogue on the real-world challenges of planning and executing innovation in large organizations.

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posted by Jody @ Sunday, November 18, 2007  
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