BrainTrust Query: Is ‘Social Media for Business’ an Oxymoron?
By James Tenser, Principal,
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
“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
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
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
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.
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?