Every technology magazine presents social software as the next big thing. It seems every year we have a new big thing that only fizzles out the next when something new is created-- nobody ever seems to get much out of the old things before they move along. While the shallow hype doesn't excite me, I do like social softwares ability to organize relationships.
Remember software is just a tool, it helps us do the things we do daily, but doesn't replace our need for the basics. In this post, I'm going to tell you about a few networks you should consider, and then share some comments about their usefulness.
Several business-to-business based social software networks include LinkedIn, Ecademy, Ryze, and Spoke. Other networks are available, these represent the ones I use and recommend. Each system seems to create a different way to track social relationships, some are more business focused than others, but poke around to see what works best for you.
Social software tries to augment human relationships by providing an analytical means of tracking connections between people.
In a future post, I'll share with you how I use social software to strengthen business relationships. I'll probably give you some tips on creating and using profiles, but right now I have a most important point to make. The point:
Social software only tracks relationships you still have to create them
Tracking multiple relationships in business can be tricky, after all, some companies have thousands of customers, hundreds of business partners, and make countless interactions daily. Social software attempts to give companies access to the people those people know. If we have trouble tracking just those first level connections, imagine processing all six degrees of separation.
For example, I have 34,257 contacts in my company database. These contacts represent customers, vendors, past employees, business partners, and individuals my company has interacted with since 1991 (purged periodically for relevance and targeting.) I've got 25,265 confirmed address (meaning all contact information is available) of which I reach 25 to 43% over the course of a year and between 10 to 15% over a 30 day window.
That's 2,565 people over the course of 30 days. Let's break this down further. Of those people about 50% are reached, but confirmed, through my website in a one-to-many communication. Others are reached via my newsletter. Of the remaining, how many do you think I reach one-to-one in that same window?
Total one-to-one interactions: 30 phone calls, 159 email messages responded to, and 140 other activities with 57 unique individuals. I don't actually document every phone call, email message, or other activity, only the ones pertaining to a project. I also don't put in my database lists of who I talked to at meetings, I just note the meeting in my calendar.
The only reason I know all this is I use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to monitor interactions in business. What does this have to do with social software? Glad you asked, social software tells me more about who those 57 people.
In fact, if each of those people have access to 10 other people who might be interested in what I offer, then potentially I could reach 570 prospects. If the 570 each know 5 people interested in what I have to offer, then I could potentially reach 2,850 executives who want stronger business relationships. According to my profile at LinkedIn, the 16 connections I have currently documented give me access to more than 27,300 members in their system. (At the time of this column)
Most sales people would find that exciting, but let me tell you something. It doesn't matter how many people you could reach if you don't have strong relationships with the folks you already interact. Social software makes it easy for me to track these potential relationships, but does nothing more than helping me find the right people when I want to cultivate new relationships.
If you never try social software, do this one thing. When you need something for your business, whether it be customers, employees, capital, or anything-- ask the people around you "Who do you know that can X" where X is what you are seeking. When you go through your Rolodex to ask this simple question, you will extend your network, and you do exactly what social software promises.
Many of the available systems have room to grow. I believe they provide a means to do your homework before entering new relationships. Many have tools to gather endorsements and build your own personal credibility. However, they will never be a tool to build relationships-- that will still be up to the individual.
I'll let others debate over their pro's and con's, right now keep an eye on what these systems have to offer. Invest some time in joining one or more systems listed above, and don't be afraid to ask the questions necessary to get the resources you want in business. As an executive, social software networks could be your ace in the hole for improving your company and extending your own reach.
Recent articles on social software:Are You Ready for Social Software? (Darwin Magazine), Social network analysis: Tracing relationships (IBM), Social networking systems promise ease and deliver irritability (Red Herring), Social nets: goldmine or rat hole? (Red Herring), Six degrees of sales separation (Search CRM),© 2003-2008 Center for Strategic Relations, All rights reserved.
Justin Hitt helps selling professionals connect with buyers through relationship building strategies foundation to today's modern business. For details visit https://www.justinhitt.com/
By Justin Hitt at December 4, 2003 1:21 AM Subscribe in a reader
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