Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Saturday, September 06, 2008

B2B Social Networks Enabling Collaboration


A recent eMarketer assessment asked the pointed question, do business and online socializing actually mix? Apparently so, they conclude. As the number of business users of social networks continues to increase, advertising expenditures will rise.

In the U.S. this year, advertisers will spend $40 million to reach a business audience on online social networks, and that is just the beginning. According to eMarketer projections, that ad spending will reach $210 million in 2012.

"As compelling as the ad growth is, marketers will spend far more over the next few years to create and manage their own social networks for business customers, partners, suppliers and vendors," says Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst at eMarketer.

"These business networks will serve a range of purposes, from improving customer communication and collaboration to aiding product development."

A clear sign of the revolution in business thinking and behavior is the popularity of LinkedIn -- the most widely known professional social network -- where the audience has more than doubled in the past year, and the rise of additional business-oriented networks, including a raft of networks aimed at verticals.

I personal don't believe that LinkedIn qualifies as a "social" network, but that's a topic better left for another time and place.

Vertical industry networks targeting just about any job description or category are proliferating. Among the most prominent are ITtoolbox, a 1.3-million-member community of information technology professionals; Legal OnRamp and LawLink for attorneys; and Reel-Exchange, for film and video professionals.

"Even Facebook has become a de facto B2B social network," says Williamson, "simply because so many business executives have joined it in the past year."

The giant social networking site may not consider itself to be in the B2B space, but a June 2008 deal with Visa, which created an application called Visa Business Network for small businesses on Facebook, signals that it will probably attract more advertising aimed at a growing business audience.

"With the growing popularity of professional social network Websites, businesspeople are changing how they build professional relationships and find jobs," says Williamson.