Trickle-Up Socialnomics: How BtoB Firms Can Leverage Social Media
This post introduces the idea of Trickle-Up Socialnomics™, which describes how BtoB (business-to-business) firms can view their supply chain as a Social Media Chain and leverage it to identify business opportunities and increase revenues. It includes links to a white paper that describes the Social Media Chain more fully and provides examples of how participants can both listen to and engage with individuals and organizations at different levels. The white paper also provides examples of the Trickle-Up Socialnomics™ effect resulting from these activities. (April 23, 2014)
Author: Courtney Hunt
Leaders of many BtoB (business-to-business) firms are uncertain – if not downright skeptical – about how social media can help them achieve their business development objectives. Tempted by the media hype and low barriers to entry, some BtoB firms have experimented with establishing a presence on some of the best known social networking platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), but many of these experiments have met with limited results.
Generally speaking, poor results can be attributed to a failure to recognize that:
- The approaches used by BtoC (business-to-consumer) firms cannot be applied wholesale to their businesses.
- Popular social networking channels may not be the most appropriate places to engage with current and potential BtoB customers.
- The social media universe is much larger than the “big three” social networking platforms.
- Although it may not require a huge cash investment, the time commitment necessary for social media success should not be underestimated.
- Tactical experimentation is not the same as strategic implementation. Even a low-cost investment is no bargain if it is not strategically oriented.
Just as they take a different approach to marketing and business development in general, leaders of BtoB enterprises need to employ social media in unique and contextually-appropriate ways. This post, and the accompanying white paper, introduce the idea of Trickle-Up Socialnomics™*, which describes how BtoB firms can view their supply chain as a Social Media Chain and leverage it to identify business opportunities and increase revenues.
New technologies don’t fundamentally change what a firm is trying to achieve. What they do offer are potentially better ways to pursue those objectives. Social media initiatives should be integrated into an enterprise’s other business development activities; however, limited resources may necessitate trade-offs. The expected utility of various efforts should be compared to determine which can produce the highest possible return relative to the required investment. Social media approaches are often superior because in addition to other benefits, they enable firms to access “actionable intelligence” from more high-quality sources faster and more cheaply than traditional communication channels.
Although the Trickle-Up Socialnomics model is built around participants in a classic manufacturing supply chain, the underlying ideas are transferrable to virtually any organization since they all operate within economic ecosystems in which participants are directly and indirectly connected to each other.
*Socialnomics™ is a term coined by Erik Qualman, a social media thought leader who wrote a book by the same name in 2009. You can learn more about Socialnomics by visiting their website.
The Supply Chain as Social Media Chain
Here is a conceptualization of the Supply Chain as Social Media Chain. For purposes of this illustration I’ve included five participants in the classic manufacturing supply chain, represented by blue/yellow ovals and avatars. The model doesn’t include all relevant participants for a manufacturing supply chain and doesn’t recognize the inherent messiness and nonlinearity of the relationships among participants. I simplified the components to focus on the core social media themes, which should be transferrable to more complex configurations.
The top half of the diagram shows what I refer to as the “Listening Chain,” with different layers of listening for different types of participants. The bottom half of the diagram shows the “Engagement Chain,” which is where dialogue and other interactions occur.
Participants in the Social Media Chain can listen to the publicly-shared communications of any other participant, even without a direct connection. Though engagement can also occur across levels, participants will generally engage directly with their own clients and prospects.
Listening to and engaging with other Social Media Chain participants can enable BtoB firms to identify and pursue new business opportunities and better serve existing customers. Although engagement itself can’t be focused on selling, listening and engaging can both lead to revenue-generating opportunities.
The Trickle-Up Socialnomics™ White Paper
The Trickle-Up Socialnomics white paper describes the Social Media Chain and provides examples of how participants can both listen to and engage with individuals and organizations at different levels. It also provides examples of the Trickle-Up Socialnomics™ effect resulting from these activities. The paper’s intent is not to tell leaders of BtoB organizations they should engage in social media. Rather, it is intended to help them better understand what they can do.