As I blog about new media, I am often struck by the irony of my social media “lifestyle”. Many of my new “friends” have drunk the web 2.0 Kool-aid and spend most of their time on social media talking about social media. From my conversations with them, you would think that these new media like Twitter and Facebook will change every aspect of our lives (heck, even Oprah is on Twitter now). While I remain bullish about the potential of these channels, I have a bunch of concerns about long term adoption by pragmatists and laggards particularly in the B2B world. Here is my logic:
Advertising based business models are weak: Regular readers of the ‘slice know about the poor response rates of Facebook ads. Without a strong ROI from this advertising, companies will eventually steer clear of this medium or prices will be driven down to a level reflecting its effectiveness.
Where are the doctors, lawyers and other “regular” business people? I can see them wanting a presence in the social media world but until these media can improve service delivery, increase sales or cut costs, it will be a nice to have experiment for some guy in marketing.
Customer conversations are great: Engaging them online is valuable but it is challenging to measure the impact. We’ll see in the long run if customer satisfaction or retention rates improve from these online interactions.
Someone’s gonna pay: In many cases, however, we just don’t know who that will be. I love what people like TipJoy are doing in the micropayments space but we still don’t have strong revenue models for many of these sites.
Call me old fashioned: One of the things that helped Web 1.0 explode was when business people realized they could sell more stuff by having an ecommerce site. I’m still waiting to hear more of these B2B stories from the social media world.
So what does this mean?
We need to keep innovating and testing. There is a great deal of option value in being a part of the conversations. They are happening out there whether you like it or not. Also, I know this isn’t a very web 2.0 idea but repurposing and syndicating your content through these channels can have a positive impact on your search engine marketing and help you reach prospective customers. Just be don’t be an idiot, be relevant, and add value to the conversation.