Yesterday, my monthly strategy discussion group met to discuss social media and its applications in the B2B space. One of the challenges that carry over from B2C into B2B is no surprise, relationships matter. Sales people have known this and so do marketers but IT people? Similarly, it is more than likely that this insight is actively being pursued or nurtured in the strategy department or by the folks in product development, training, or those in the C suite who are more likely focused on the productivity and performance of the organization. No wonder social media remains largely at the periphery of most operating firms–excepting some of those who are front and center in the information technology space.Which are you? user? voyeur? or even if you’re a neophyte with respect to social media I invite you to read on.
Then of course there’s the fad factor associated with social media that just blurs the line between literal social connections –keeping up with friends and family members– and connecting to do business. For example, it’s one thing to follow the antics of far-flung cousins and friends on their vacations or discover the degree of their vanity and another to learn of similar adventures from a business colleague, peer, client or supplier. But clear in yesterday’s conversation, the limited audience of very sophisticated business people working in a variety of industry sectors and organizations aside, social media is often perceived as mostly noise or clutter.
I’m not going to explore the why, but rather try to help people who are at least one degree of separation from the active engagement with these tools. For example, I’d like to address those who work in a small business and may lack a larger support infrastructure or whose access to fresh, cutting edge ideas is limited due to time and price. Then again, everyone has limited time; so unless you are heavy into discovery , are proving new concepts or assuming the risk of entering new markets or relish taking on new challenges, I invite you to consider the opportunities you may be missing.
Do you experience information gaps? Amidst the continuous update and flow of news provided through untold number of sources, reliable or otherwise it’s nigh impossible to stay up to date on everything. The busier we get, the more likely we are to constrict our access to new information sources and continue to keep up with the people we know or encounter in our regular routine. We thus deny ourselves an opportunity to hear or see what else may be happening, is possible, doable or even achievable by complementary or even competitive organizations.
But what if you had a network, that allowed you to both surface and then vet oddball ideas or future opportunities?
What if you knew how to find new collaborators that allowed you to compete more effectively and efficiently in the marketplace, that improved your ability to capitalize on new ideas and deepen your existing customer/client revenue streams or possibly attract new customers/clients?
By being a better collaborator and developing collaborations in unlikely places you might surprise yourself at how quickly and effortlessly you can freshen your perspective on your existing customers, find an efficient alternative means to engage your employees, your customers, or suppliers to learn. With new insights you may also discover not so much a new trend but more importantly gain some insights into furthering your efficiency or effectiveness.
My suggestion is to get out and explore one or more of these new social media tools. The number is growing every day and with that growth they are becoming simpler and more widely available than ever before. Push past your usual go to sources and connect to new people who may share an interest that is not necessarily business related. Of course if you look for them online you are more likely to find someone who is either savvy with the use of tools you may wish to master, or my offer you a new perspective or insight into reaching a population that might be in need of your services or products. As Seth Godin in his latest book on Tribes explains, connecting to the people who care about what you do or what you do is the best way to insure your ongoing business…especially if you are willing to engage and respond to their input.
Of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions. Better yet I’d love to learn more about your own experiences testing the waters of social media as it pertains to your own business development efforts positive or negative. That includes the naysayers among you.
One more thing, I encourage you to check out the slides from a recent presentation I made over at the University of Chicago Booth Gleacher center to assorted alumni and community members on the topic of collaboration. Making Collaboration Work For you