Early chatter about ChannelEyes likened it to popular consumer social media tools such as Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter.  You don’t have to go far to read about the viral growth of social as a communication vehicle and its steady movement into business.
Most vendors are experiencing alarming drops in email open rates, webinar attendance and portal usage.  On the other side of the fence, Channel Partners are getting inundated from dozens of vendors that are spraying across 30 different vehicles.  What is missing is engagement – a conversation – that is relevant and beneficial for both sides.
Recent social metrics speak for themselves:
  • Average age of a Facebook user is now 38 (from 33 in 2008).
  • On an average day almost a quarter of users are active by liking content, commenting on a status or photo, or creating their own content.  Over half of all people engage weekly with their social network.
  • Average number of connections is 229 (up from 150 in 2009).  Friends are evenly distributed across different parts of life including school, co-workers, family, neighbors, hobbies and peer groups.
The growth of social media in business has been surprisingly strong.  It is likely that you have spent some time polishing your Linkedin, allowing some colleagues to leak into your personal network on Facebook and perhaps even built a Twitter following.  Mirroring some of the challenges of bringing consumer devices into the workplace, consumer social media presents another layer of complexity:
1.Security
Knowing who you are dealing with – especially when it comes to sensitive business dealings – is absolutely critical.  Trust is the core of business relationships, and having a layer of authentication will be required for engagement.
2.Noise
Business social will allow you the ability to self-select and filter information, giving you as much or as little information that you require to be successful.  This reduces the massive broadcasting and amplification that has become too apparent in today’s major social networks.
3.Productivity
In the end, the value of anything that you add to your business will be defined by its ability to drive revenue or control costs.  Properly applied, business social will work on both sides of the equation.
It is likely that social networking will continue to mature and replace traditional vehicles in usage and importance.  It has the power to transform the way we communicate, build relationships and trust, learn and transact business.  How would you work better in a conversation format?
Collaborating in bite sized chunks, effectively building a message or a story, and moving the ball forward in real-time will be hallmarks of this new medium.  The conversations will use links and rich media and utilize the power of the crowd to solve issues.
In the end, it is hard to predict the impact of business social – it will never completely replace the written word, email, or other vehicles such as webinars or video.  It will definitely not replace the benefit of human contact that trade shows, in person meetings and voice calls have.  However, in a world that works around constant contact, it will be impossible to ignore.