Online business engagement just about ‘zeroes and ones’?!
On a binary day like today, January 10th 2010 or 011010 in short, it’s perhaps tempting to view the world in digital terms of just ‘zeroes and ones’. As people in the so-called 1st world are increasingly becoming digital citizens (whether born digitally or as ‘immigrants’), businesses do so too. Becoming digital however does not imply business or business(people) want to be treated in a binary fashion. It merely paves the way for authentic human, 1-to-1 interaction.

B2B networking the 2.0 way
My dutch friends, family and colleagues regularly question the value of social media in business, especially in B2B. They argue that building a relationship is done offline, face to face and not in the digital darkroom of Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Nearly all B2B players of some size have recognized the need for BI and CRM. Yet social media still is being frowned upon as the latest fad from Silicon Valley, that is best left to facebook-loving teenagers or Hyves-exploring IT geeks. Others do intend to include social media in their marketing and communications plan for 2010, but quite often seem more inclined to policing their employees in saying and doing the right things on social media. Or merely want to leverage social media to shout more loudly to a wide audience.

Enriching business dialogue by going social
Here is where to my mind the social media paradox lies. In a world that’s drowning in information and data, a sustainable competitive edge increasingly relies on rich content stemming from as rich as possible a customer dialogue which in turn produces enriching relationships. Of course nothing beats good old-fashioned 1-to-1 conversation to really understand a customer’s actual motivation, wants and needs. Yet social media can help to mutually (!) find relevant insights, ideas and new contacts that in turn can be shaped into a valuable business conversation, qualified lead or otherwise. Business Intelligence and Customer Relationship Management will significantly benefit from the realtime, social insights generated by relevant communities. Furthermore, customers increasingly expect responsiveness by their business partners, off- and online. The reward for a quick and adequate response to customer queries and complaints will often be positive customer advocacy and customer loyalty, the biggest B2B pearl to cherish. As the 2009 Business Social Media Benchmarking Study which included 2,384 participants shows,  US-based B2B companies are also even more likely to use brand awareness, prospect lead quality and prospect lead volume as social media success metrics than are B2C companies. I look forward to seeing social media further mature and take shape, especially on this side of the pond. In my next blog I hope to present you some initial findings of my B2B social media poll and would appreciate your input as well.

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