Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Tenser's Tirades blog.
As new marketing verbs like tweet, blog, and social networking permeate our thinking, we need to acquire a clarifying thought vocabulary that will allow us to grapple with emerging concepts and put the tools to appropriate and beneficial use. I'll take a first whack at it here. Perhaps some wise readers can build on these ideas.
For starters, it would be helpful to differentiate between the kinds of activities that take place within online social media constructs. I group them into four familiar quadrants:
"Consumer to Consumer" social media are probably the highest profile, as they are manifest on hundreds of millions of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube uploads. If much of the content posted on virtual "walls" is silly, trivial and self-indulgent, so be it. It is also highly dynamic, interactive, and in its way, democratic. The sheer size of the community is proof of the concept's power and cultural influence.
Businesses and political groups view the huge C to C audiences as a potential gold mine, and so there has emerged a concerted effort by marketers to deliver controlled messages within the social media platforms. I'd label activities like this "Business to Consumer."
Which leads us naturally to consider the arrow's reversal: "Consumer to Business" social networking may be a source of valuable feedback from both supporters and critics. Wise brands monitor these for insights and to counter libelous talk. Brands, celebrities and pols also take deliberate action to invite communications from loyal and not-so-loyal constituents - setting up their blogs, Twitter feeds, email lists and fan pages to anchor the message and gather feedback. Perhaps B to C and C to B social media activities are inseparable, two sides of a coin.
Finally "Business to
Business" social media applies the tools and methods of social media
to serious business purposes. This is of central interest in this discussion.
LinkedIn is a very good example of a public platform that is used for
career networking, personal branding, formation of subject matter communities
("groups") and sharing current events and ideas. There is also some fairly
sound (if experimental) use of Twitter by trade journalists and industry
observers (search the #NRF10
hashtag on twitter.com to
view interesting and extensive coverage of NRF Expo in New York, for
Through secure-access portals, social media-like tools are being used for creating flexible online workgroups, sharing documents and information, even hosting internal and inter-organizational collaboration like Merchandising Performance Management among retailers and manufacturers. The platforms use some familiar functionality, but quickly go deeper to deliver performance dashboards, "fingertip analytics" and other advanced capabilities. Some businesses are also using a combination of Web-based and social media applications and tools to manage their visibility, presence, and image with respect to their business community.
Mastery of the subtleties of social media is an essential pursuit for both B to C and B to B marketers. We'd like to see some improved vocabulary emerge to differentiate the activities that take place between individual consumers, businesses and consumers, and businesses with other businesses.
For B to B, I propose "voxology," the new science of the online voice.
Discussion Questions: Is "Social Media for Business" an oxymoron? Has dialog around this phenomenon tended to trivialize serious business uses of the new tools? How has the use of social media made a meaningful difference for your business or businesses you know?
How integral should social media be to retail and consumer brand businesses today?