B2B Applications for Social Media

I recently Live searched for examples of B2B use of social media and was surprised about how little material is available. In 2008 corporations used only $40 million on B2B social media marketing… so no wonder.

Most books use Dell as an example of engagement marketing, but I believe that Nike+ is actually a much better example. Like most Fortune 100 brands Nike has taken the approach to create their own branded community site. The Nike+ site is about a consumer’s passion for running. The functionality in itself is simple (clocking miles and providing comparisons), but what makes it unique is the way that it links the digital space and real life. It promotes the creation of positive memories around one’s passion for running and the Nike brand.

The problem with branded sites is that as consumers we engage with multiple brands, which really means that we just don’t have the energy to engage regularly in multiple branded sites. Most of our time is spent in work productivity tools and the digital social breaks that we take during the day are spent on sites like Facebook that enable a range of social functions with our immediate sphere of friends. What most brands lack is a way to bridge the branded and the mainstream. Most have their Facebook groups, but then we run into issues of content domicile and ownership. Thos sub groups end up being little more than contact lists of the like minded and digitally enthusiastic. With Nike+ Petr Klus has created a Facebook widget that brings basic Nike+ community functionality 365 days a year to you primary social dashboard… Facebook home page. Now I do not know if Petr is associated with Nike at all and the app only has 377 users, but alpha case study Dell doesn’t have an app to bridge the chasm between mainstream and branded. Fedex is a great example of fun social app. 100,000 installs for FedEx Launch a Package in less than 48 hours – with over 50 percent of those users returning more than 10 times since their initial install! But at the end of the day it is only a game. Are you really creating a lasting interactive relationship with the brand? Are you really bridging anything?

If we think of large global brands like GE. There is a huge B2B social media play, but what is it? I strongly believe in the role of ecosystems and their impact on valuations. Corporations can expand effectively and efficiently only so far down their value chains to grow. Lets consider GE… they have a huge ecosystem of clients and partners across the world spanning every  region, vertical and multiple domains. The time of spoke and hub ecosystems where GE was the hub and the world rotated around it are over. Modern ecosystems are mesh networks in which brands like GE represent only one peer. This also means that brands have lost absolute control over the ecosystem and the community is starting to have a mind of its own. Alpha brands can only hope to administer, facilitate and influence their own ecosystems. The role of the alpha brand is changing. In B2B environments trust is key. The role of the alpha brand is to be the ‘licensee of trust’ in that ecosystem. It is the alpha brand’s role to facilitate and encourage peer-to-peer interaction, for it is that interaction that defines how dynamic the ecosystem is. The strength of a social network is measured based on the number of cross linkages and the strength of those connections. By belonging to the GE trusted global network a trusted I drive infinitely more benefit than by just engaging with GE. An IDC study on the Microsoft ecosystem concluded that IAMCP members have achieved a 30% higher annual growth than others.

Now what are the key attributes of a global B2B network?

– It must be digital

– Trust is key

– It is a mesh

– It is secure and closed

– And it is fundamentally social, because people buy from people. Companies do not buy from companies. People form social bonds… personal, professional and/or both. Companies have framework agreements.

How does this translate to technology?

– Unified communications

– Social software

– Cloud computing

– Business Intelligence… and social analytics

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