B2B Gets Social Media

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Social media tools such as blogs, wikis, and podcasts have become commonplace in the business-to-consumer marketing world. However, adoption of social media tools in the business-to-business environment is still in early stages, as companies contend with  issues of productivity, security, privacy, and content ownership related to enterprise social media usage. In a July 2007 research report entitled "B2B Marketers Dip a Toe into Emerging Tactics" from Forrester Research, principal analyst Laura Ramos found that as of 4Q 2006, only 37% of B2B marketers surveyed used blogs, social networks, or user-generated content in their efforts.

The irony is that social media tools, properly designed and deployed, may actually bring a greater payoff to B2B users than in the B2C environment. The reason? Tools that enable faster and more personalized interactions between customer and vendor can enhance corporate credibility and deepen relationships. Those are all-important factors in B2B sales decisions, which tend to have a higher dollar value and longer-term impact than consumer sales.

A spate of social media tools designed from the ground up to meet enterprise needs are enabling faster and more accurate information sharing within the corporate environment, facilitating fast response to customer feedback, and uncovering information that was difficult to gather using traditional methods. Established vendors in the B2C social media world have taken note, releasing versions and platforms specifically adapted for B2B use.

Sharing Enterprise Information

Unlocking who knows what within a corporate environment can be a competitive advantage. How do companies ensure that the right people from within are collaborating? Corporate social networks can play a crucial role. Taking a page from sites like Facebook and MySpace, which allow users to set up detailed user profiles about their interests and hobbies, companies such as Connectbeam, Generate, and SelectMinds have designed social networks to solve specific business problems from behind a corporate firewall.

In the case of Connectbeam, the application pairs social tagging with social network software to enable corporate end users to quickly find and qualify experts within their companies. The social bookmarking functionality allows users to tag relevant information and share it with colleagues; social networking comes into play as enterprise users comment on bookmarks and identify colleagues for project collaboration or make expertise requests.

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