Is Social Networking Still a Consumer Play?

In all the talks about social media/networking/commerce, the examples used nearly always tend to be business to consumer (B2C) successes. Think Cadbury’s Wispa campaign or Topshop having the greatest UK social presence (1,304,804 Facebook fans and 147,448 Twitter followers as of May 2011) and you’ll see that what B2C marketing offers is still the quicker time to connect and affect.

Taking that a step further, the types of businesses now succeeding in this new space has changed; Coca Cola is the highest ranking brand on Facebook at number 12 where at the top sits Texas Hold ‘Em Poker with Lady Gaga in fourth position. (source: 08 April 2011).

What social networking offers the end user is instant access to organisations and businesses that were once to difficult to reach. In fact, one of the highest priorities for CEOs according to Gartner over the last few years has been the focus on transparency; think BP, Nestle, or Peugot (see image below) and you’ll see why online communication has been thrust into their focus.

But for business to business (B2B) relations, social media is more of a support tool rather than one that directly impacts the bottom line. In this space, businesses promoting their products and services utilise online networking platforms to raise awareness and gently connect on terms dictated by the visitor. Not every business can stand out like Lady Gaga (meat dress anyone?!) but when social media is used as part of the company’s process framework, it can help break down invisible barriers and connect in more fluid ways.

Think about if you need to connect with the CxO of a company who you’d like on your books. Typically the gate keeper would perform a rather admirable job of holding you at arms length whilst leaving their boss to get on with their work. But now, if you know who he or she is by name, a simple web search can unlock the opportunity to connect with them on a professional level and also at a personal level. The Holy Grail of cold calling that ironically is still left untapped by so many inside sales reps.

What’s important is that social media is for life and not just for the half an hour you have spare to briefly understand it. Implementing social media into your strategy is particularly useful for businesses with restricted budgets who have something useful to say but it’s important not to let it eclipse the bigger picture. You still need people to guide how your company engages successfully with social media but also with the experience to know that it’s not the only answer to business growth.

It’s all to easy to be swept up by the marketing communicated by those in the business of social media but you must remain grounded and use what you need to enhance your already well thought out business strategy.

Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow her on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.


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