Even B-to-B’s are Social

Posted on July 9, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Over the past few months, my colleague and friend, Jim McGee, and I have been working on our idea of the 6 conversations necessary to create a social business strategy. There are a number of ideas coming out of our research that I plan to blog about here in the coming weeks. One of them is a ‘knock on the head..’ moment: something that is really obvious, but that we have noticed is continually

forgotten or overlooked when we talk with executives about the importance of a social business strategy … businesses involve people interacting with other people, and therefore businesses are social by nature.
“Of course,” you say. “This is not something new. Why blog about it?”

During the course of our research, we have frequently heard comments such as

“social tools are right for B-to-C, but we are a B-to-B and there isn’t much use for them here”
or
“my kids are on Facebook, but I don’t see any use for that kind of thing in our business”
or
“these tools are appropriate for PR, but not for the other parts of our business.”

Does this sound like something you’ve heard in your business? If so, then your business is forgetting this fundamental premise: Businesses are social by nature.

So what does this mean for your organization? The logic goes something like this. Businesses are made up of people and people are social (yes, even the most quite engineer is social by nature). People interact frequently with other people, so even a business whose only customers are other businesses still have the opportunity to enhance their enterprise with social tools. The use of these tools may be quite different than those of a consumer-oriented business.

But our hypothesis is that all organizations can be enhanced with social tools. Further, all organizations are going to have to adapt to this new social environment at some point. Those who are leaders are already experimenting with it so they can learn (and sometimes fail, and try again until they learn) how to corral these ideas.

You buy the premise that all businesses are social, and you are trying to figure out where to start. For some businesses, the first step is one of these:

Listen– following their company’s name on Twitter, Facebook, blogs or other social medium to see what is being said about them by customers and the public in general.

Creat a Customer Community– setting up a community site on their company’s website that allows customers to interact between themselves and with experts in the company. This application takes more thought and planning than listening, but those that have moved this way early on are learning what it takes to engage their customers and beyond.

Build an Internal Social Networking– Some have started with an internal collaboration site so employees and internal partners can collaborate. Sharepoint is a frequent starting place. Building an internal ‘community’ will help these companies understand what works and what doesn’t, and how to grow a community so it’s actually useful to the targeted group. But lessons from an internal community are not necessarily the same for an externally facing community. It’s still a place to start.

Where is your organization starting? Are you doing all of these at the same time? Are they a coordinated ‘social business’ effort or a few ‘point solutions’? Let us know; we are interested.

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