B2B social networks: imagination is the limit

When it comes to B2B social networks, imagination is the limit. Yet, for many of us in business today, professional social networking begins and ends with LinkedIn. And sometimes, salespeople have this tendency to go overboard trying to harass as many people as they can.

_”After all, it’s a sales playground, you know!”

I spoke with Bruno Fridlansky — a seasoned European Linkedin expert — recently. Here is the transcript of this interview in which I asked Bruno a number of questions, with a focus on innovation in B2B social networks.

B2B social networks: imagination is the limit

B2B social networks: imagination is the limit
Nope! B2B social networks don’t end with LinkedIn. As a matter of fact, many business professionals have never, and will probably never, set mouse on the celebrated B2B social platform. Let’s start with a blank page, Fridlansky stated.

“LinkedIn started as a social networking tool for professionals but now, in essence, it has become primarily an HR tool, as well as a playground for reckless salespeople. There is a risk that the network loses its mojo if too much harassment takes place. And specialised vertical industry-based social networks have yet to be invented. Imagination is the limit”, Bruno Fridlansky told me.

OK, we’re on LinkedIn, but why?

Originally, LinkedIn was a digital networking space for professionals to meet each other, for those who already knew each other, and to get to know new people.

It was also a way to put your CV online and thus to advertise yourself as a potential employee. Businesses tend to look for future employees on LinkedIn and focus on those who have already built a community, even if they are not necessarily looking for work.

LinkedIn also opened up beyond the HR departments to the entire commercial side with a tool like Sales Navigator.

Yet, reckless salespeople, who overlook all the rules of ethics, and lose sight of the fundamentals of sales, have flooded the network.

Budding salespersons who work properly learn to get to know their customers and to understand their needs before selling anything, to fulfil those needs in the best possible manner.

Professional Social Networks
No! Social networks are not just about LinkedIn. Businesses such as SAP, BMC Software or Veolia know how to reinvent online collaboration with their communities. I have named this congruence.

However, because of digital automation, and its virtual bias, an increasing number of ill-behaved salespeople launch campaigns — a very tale-telling war-like word —  and harass their targets. They tend to send unsolicited business proposals. They bypass the initial discovery phase and try to make a fast buck on a network that wasn’t designed for this originally.

More often than not, such pirates send offers that are not at all relevant to the people they “target” (another war-like word).

Only because your profile states you are a marketing manager, means you will be sent all sorts of marketing offers, even though your expertise in marketing has nothing to do with them.

“Let’s face the music, on LinkedIn people are hunted down like wild animals” Fridlansky added.

By opening the floodgates a bit too much, LinkedIn is at risk of losing its mojo

We’ve seen this happen before in continental Europe. The Viadeo social network, originally launched from France, is a good example of what one shouldn’t do.

Over time, they allowed too many members and tools to flood their network with business offers and gradually, this has put off most members who have left the network.

B2B social networks
We all think that the B2B social networks landscape will never change but Fridlansky says there’s room for more vertical specialised social network. Btw, a Reid Hoffman said so too ten years ago.

“LinkedIn today has a major issue if it wants to keep its specificity and usefulness,” Fridlansky says. If the people you want to connect with disappear, LinkedIn ceases to be attractive. “We need, as human beings, to be connected to other professionals, it’s part of our job to network. If our community leaves, we too will leave and the network will lose its value” the expert added.

There is a dire need for more vertical B2B social networks

“I’m no fortune-teller, but there are certainly more vertical networks that could crop up in the future” Fridlansky said. There is one dimension that will never change though, and that is time. Days only last for 24 hours and, as professionals, we only have a limited amount of time to devote to digital tools, to manage our community, to facilitate them and connect with other professionals.

It’s hard to see beyond this generic B2B social network. All new B2B social networks that are created tend to add a LinkedIn Connect button. This is an issue because it means they cannot exist without LinkedIn. There’s no real disruption in that case.

It is possible to create a hyper-specialised, hyper-vertical network devoted to an industry or a line of business. Even though, I haven’t yet seen things that have really appealed to me.

When it comes to B2B social networks, everything has yet to be invented

Yann Gourvennec
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