What is the most potent social media network for businesses and professionals? No, not Facebook, but LinkedIn, with over 100 million members. It has a rival in Viadeo, French based by market leader in France, Italy and Spain and growing fast from its current base of 35 million members.
Last year LinkedIn opened a Paris office and Viadeo opened one in San Francisco, both taking the battle for users into each other’s heartlands. It is a sign of how the business link market has really hotted up lately. It is thought this market is worth way over £200m a year now and set to grow rapidly.
Both sites make money, and both target jobs markets/hiring solutions and business development as the two strands are equally valid in growing commerce. Telegraph techno blogger Monty Munford reckoned (March 2011) that ‘other opportunities in event management and paid-for endorsement also beckon’.
Certainly celebrities are beginning to admit that they make money out of endorsements. The global fashion business worth billions, was exposed in February 2012 paying certain ‘celebs’ to sit on the front rows of fashion shows to appear to be supporting a particular designer’s collection.
It is a neat way to promote the latest thing in clothing and accessories with approval from the latest actor/actress, pop star or controversialist. It has long been used in paper, magazine and TV advertising although some feel that celebrity sponsorship is counter-productive in fact.
Whether the principles will apply to social media remains to be seen. Just how much notice people pay of the recommendations of others, famous or family and friends, is what pollsters are trying to ascertain.
Both LinkedIn and Viadeo are improving services to existing customers. It is an old business truth that more firms seem to be rediscovering. When the Tesco giant wobbled in the battle for market share in 2011/2012, they identified the need to focus on customer service to improve the shopping experience.
LinkedIn now have a personal news service, LinkedIn Today, described by Munford as ‘a news aggregator that uses an algorithm to spider users’ profiles and to generate newsfeed of stories relevant to that user’. Viadeo has SmartNews. So personalised advertising is now joined by personalised news.
Since nothing stands still in internet business, companies in Germany, the USA and elsewhere are joining the scramble for users and clients. NameSake has taken the Twitter idea of characters limit to states something, and offers job opportunity searches through 200 characters max.
So, do businesses actually need any social media involvement or not? Mark Paddock of Social Media Today is in no doubt: ‘It’s now an undisputed fact. Every business needs to be involved with the right type of social media and right now businesses are increasingly turning to Social Media as a more cost effective medium for reaching their audience’.
Social Media Managers
He said that Social Media Managers are in high demand and will stay so over the next few years. He put social media as an over $3bn a year industry, so is ‘flabbergasted’ when he finds companies with employees not yet on LinkedIn or retailers without Facebook Stores.
He said that while small and medium enterprises are ‘more concerned with staying solvent than organising their social media’, they must realise that dedicating focus and energy is one of the ‘most cost effective ways a business can keep ahead of the competition’. Around 28% of UK businesses employ a social media manager, and 41% expect to do so within the next year.
Paddock argued the following facts as evidence:
- 68% of people are more likely to buy from a positive Facebook friend referral
- 12% of Retail Businesses have employed full time staff to manage social media
- 84% of businesses rate THEIR OWN social media efforts as poor or average
- 23% of businesses monitor social media platforms but don’t participate
- 73% of people trust peer recommendations of products or services, only 14% trust ads
- 44% of businesses see social media as a new channel to properly engage with customers
- 43% of business see social media as an opportunity to conduct customer research and improve customer retention
- 28% reported an increase in sales and turnover thanks to social media
- 18% see social media as primarily a lead generation tool
- Only 5% say they see no benefit.
There it is then. People talk online about businesses. Social media for business has a future. Web silence is not an option; join the chatter or die.