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April 19, 2009

A B2B view of Social media

It is easy to get lost in all the hysteria about social media and the Web 2.0 trends. We are bombarded daily about new products, new sites, new functionalities and many more things to distract our attention.

The reality is that there just isn't enough time in each day for us to evaluate all of these, let alone try to make valuable use of them.

My view on Social media in general is that it is great for B2C companies., Airlines, Hotels, Authors, Speakers, Audio Books, eBooks, Public Conference Organizers and so on. If your targeted prospects mingle in with the general population then you will do pretty well out of this.

But if your prospects are the very hard to reach high level executives that inhabit the corridors of economic power, then things just became a heck of a lot difficult.

The CEO of Zappos may be on Twitter, but the VP of operations for BP is not. Neither would be the VP/CEO of (say) Exxon, or Rio Tinto, or even GM. (Although the latter probably should be)

Some of the next level down will be, and maybe some of those further down the chain. But they are not getting the benefits from (say) Twitter or Facebook that B2C marketers are. Or they are using it for fun and entertainment - which is unlikely among that set.

And why would they? What are they going to get out of Facebook, or Twitter?

Facebook is intriguing. Many decision maker are on Facebook, but they use it as I do. As a means of keeping in touch with old friends and my extended family. And thats about it. I don't market there because friends and business really don't mix. (It would bore them to tears basically)

Twitter is another that is intriguing. I am really taken by Twitter, I use it daily. But I am pretty sure that most of my prospects and clients would have absolutely no time for it.

However, there are some real advances happening in terms of client side use of Twitter, so they may well be there soon for utility sake if for nothing else.

And then there's LinkedIn. Many, (most), of my clients and prospects are on LinkedIn. And they are there for many reasons. real networking between professionals being a large part of that.

In fact, when I was looking for work, pitching for new contracts, trying to get in touch with some high level player or just expanding my network, LinkedIn is always my tool of choice. (But you do have to know what you are doing.)

SO thats great. Facebook - Not Likely, Twitter - Maybe, LinkedIn definitely - but thats not the really important point.

The really important point is that it is never going to replace man of your present areas of marketing in the B2B world. It is just going to supplement them.

You still need to call them on the phone, meet them in meetings, work your way through the "getting to trust you" stages of a commercial relationship, and you will still need to provide concrete proof of the value you can provide.

I think of it like a giant 24/7 trade show or trade conference. An event where everyone who matters is there and I can work my way through the room slowly trying to get to the people I realize are valuable relationships for me to hold.

What have been your experiences? Am I wrong about Facebook in terms of B2B business creation? Have you had success in B2B networking on (say) Twitter?

I am very keen to understand some of the experiences out there. Thanks.