It was with a breath of fresh air that I came across this post from Johnathan Mendez on B2B Social Networks. I've been interviewed a few times on this exact subject and it's always nice to get some opinions from others in the field. I have seen Johnathan speak at past conferences and I must say that I quite enjoy his sessions. He's interesting and has a real "down to earth" take on online marketing issues.
So let's see what he had to say about B2B social networks in a recent interview with the Denver Post.
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.
Editor's Note: I agree with Johnathan on this but I still think that many B2B sites are not yet leveraging social networks for more than anything as a recruiting or reputation management tool.
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.
Editor's Note: Interesting as measuring ROI has not always been easy to do with organic search marketing campaigns. Participating in social networks just for the sake of participating is not going to benefit anybody. B2B marketers need to create a presence in social communities where the users and other participants can comfortable with them (B2B marketers). There is a certain level of trust that users who participate in a given social network have with each other. B2b participants need to be honest and transparent with their communication in these online communities.
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.
Editor's Note: Interesting question. I think that many B2B companies leverage existing social networks first simply for the fact that there are not a lot of B2B social networks out there as of yet. In addition, I think that companies who create their own social network or community run the risk of certain bias. Honesty, dedication and transparency are key if B2B companies are to have success with their own social community. As Johnathan pointed out, 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.
Editor's Note: I couldn't agree more. B2B companies need to understand that the consumer is in control. There must be value for the consumer to engage and participate with the marketer whether it is through a social network or other online destination.
Great insight on an interesting topic. I hope that we see more of this in the future.
Labels: B2B social networks