Social Networks That Boost Your Business
By Daniel Burrus
Most people are familiar with the term "Web 2.0," which refers to a second
generation of web development and design that focuses on fostering social
networking via the web. Innovative companies are beginning to embrace Web
2.0 as a way to enhance communication, information sharing, and
collaboration, thereby allowing them to work smarter rather than harder.
The business use of Web 2.0 represents a new trend called "Business 2.0."
Aside from being the name of a defunct magazine, Business 2.0 is about using
the new web-based social networking applications (many of which were
originally created for personal use) in a way that fosters teamwork,
customer touches, and internal and external collaboration in a low-cost
Unfortunately, many businesses feel that Web 2.0 and social networking are
for the younger generation and a waste of time when used by employees.
However, once you understand the power of these applications and how to use
them in your company, youíll quickly find that they can be invaluable tools
to boost your bottom line.
Following is an overview of the best Business 2.0 tools.
Personal Tools with Business Applicability
Personal use: Facebook enables you to connect and share with the people in
your life. Users can join networks organized by city, workplace, school, and
region to connect and interact with others. People can add friends, send
them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about
Business 2.0 use: Large organizations can connect all of their
employees, or members, with Facebook. Some are finding an added advantage of
using an internal, secure version of Facebook. This has helped organizations
to dramatically increase their internal networking and collaboration.
Ask yourself: Could we use Facebook, or our own internal version, to get
people to collaborate at a higher level?
Personal use: Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows friends,
family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the
exchange of short, quick answers using no more than 140 characters per
message. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends
or co-workers. Users can receive updates via the Twitter website or other
social networking sights such as Facebook. Young people use Twitter for
answering the question: What are you doing?
Business 2.0 use: Business users could change that question to: What problem
are you trying to solve? Several companies have used this as a fast way to
solve problems. Hotels, airlines, and airports are using Twitter to pitch
services, travel updates, and respond to travelers needs.
Ask yourself: Could we use Twitter to solve problems faster with our
organization or our customers?
Personal use: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can use to
find information on virtually any topic. Anyone can edit the content as
Business 2.0 use: A large manufacturing company with engineers in locations
around the world increased problem solving and collaboration by creating an
internal, secure version of Wikipedia for sharing information on parts and
service offerings as well as repair and maintenance instructions. Retailers
and suppliers could create a version of Wikipedia to foster education and
training as well as enhanced information sharing.
Ask yourself: Could we create an internal version of Wikipedia to foster
better information and knowledge sharing?
Personal use: YouTube is a video sharing website where users can upload,
view, and share video clips. YouTube displays a wide variety of
user-generated video content as well as movie clips, product demonstrations,
and commercials. Unregistered users can watch the videos, while registered
users can upload an unlimited number of videos.
Business 2.0 use: Businesses are posting humorous commercial videos to
generate interest in their products with great success. The more
entertaining it is, the more people watch it. Business partners could create
a YouTube like channel for the purpose of educating and training.
Personal use: Digg is a social news web site made for people to discover and
share content from anywhere on the Internet, by submitting and accessing
links and stories. Voting stories thumbs up or a thumb down is the site's
cornerstone function, respectively called digging and burying.
Business 2.0 use: Many organizations have found this to be a good way to
track the most interesting advances in technology or the most useful
business news. Large organizations can create their own internal version for
sharing what employees consider to be the most useful information.
Ask yourself: Could we use Digg, or our own internal version, to get people
to share their most interesting and valuable web-based information with each
Personal use: Delicious is a social bookmarking web service for storing,
sharing, and discovering web bookmarks. It uses a non-hierarchical
classification system in which users can tag each of their bookmarks with
freely chosen index terms.
Business 2.0 use: Business users can share their most useful websites with
co-workers or business partners. If a customer purchases a product, sellers
could share relevant bookmarks that keep the customer coming back for more
information and hopefully more products.
Ask yourself: Could we use Delicious to share important new web sites faster
within our organization or with our customers?
Personal use: Visual Communications, unlike traditional video conferencing,
uses your desktop, laptop, and soon your smart phone to hold a quick,
anytime, anywhere videoconference with one or more other people. Travelers
who must be away from home are using their laptops in hotel rooms with
broadband access and free software such as Skype and AIM to communicate with
family and friends to enhance their personal connection.
Business 2.0 use: Businesses are discovering the power of Visual
Communications to enhance the connection with their sales force, business
partners, and customers.
Ask yourself: Could we use Visual Communications to enhance communications
internally and externally?
Purely Business 2.0 Tools
A Wiki is a collaborative web page or collection of web pages designed to
enable anyone to create a quick web page that allows visitors to search the
Wikiís content and edit the content in real time, as well as view updates
since their last visit. Wikis are often used to create collaborative Web
sites and to power community websites. On a moderated Wiki, Wiki owners
review comments before additions to the main body of the topic. Additional
features include calendar sharing, live AV conferencing, RSS feeds, and
Ask yourself: Could we use Wikis to enhance internal and external
LinkedIn is a business-oriented professional networking website for
exchanging information, ideas, and opportunities. There are over 35 million
registered users spanning 170 industries actively networking with each
other. For example, large insurance companies use LinkedIn to foster
networking with their independent sales representatives. HR professionals
from all over the world could use LinkedIn to share best practices.
Ask Yourself: Could we use LinkedIn to expand our organizational network for
enhanced knowledge sharing?
Cloud Computing & Software As A Service
In Cloud Computing, some or all of the storage, software, IT processes, and
data center facilities you use can exist on your providerís server, which is
maintained and cared for by your provider, giving you 24/7 access from any
device anywhere. The cost of upgrading hardware and software, maintenance,
and associated IT labor costs can be dramatically reduced or eliminated.
Currently, the ideal organization would be any size company thatís facing
big investments in computing and communications infrastructure. For example,
Amazon.com can give you an entire e-commerce back end. Software as a Service
(SaaS) such as SalesForce.com has a CRM package, SciQuest has a spend
management package, and Google, Microsoft and others have a suite of
Ask yourself: Could we use Cloud Computing & Software as a service to
streamline our IT needs?
Gain a New Competitive Advantage
By reframing the use of social networking technology, companies can increase
communication, collaboration, problem solving, and competitive advantage
with little cost. Remember, many of these tools are free or nearly free,
making them accessible to even the smallest of businesses. Therefore, the
sooner you embrace Business 2.0 and put it to work for you, the faster you
can penetrate new markets and win the lionís share of business.