Why Web 2.0 and Social Media Isn’t Catching On For B2B

By December 31, 2009E-Rep, Social Media, Web 2.0

If you happen to be a web 2.0/social media consultant or a marketing professional for a large organization, you’re almost certainly totally convinced of the indispensible value of blogs, discussion forums, LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook and the like.  If you happen to be in a B2C business, you’re probably in that group as well.  If you happen to be a B2B type though, you’re probably not doing much more than reading and hearing about it, enduring the endless hype and wondering if or when any of it will ever have any real value as a selling tool.

Why is it not catching on like wildfire?  It’s for the same old (dumb) reason other revolutions in communications technology took so long to become commonplace.  Resistance to change.

Consider the image.

H-RepNeedsE-Rep

Resistance to better communication through grunts and gestures, to speech, to amplified speech, to writing certainly happened, but the historical record is a bit sketchy.  Resistance to use of Gutenberg’s printing press, though, is better documented.  Kings and nobles didn’t like the idea of too much information getting into the hands of the rabble.  It weakened their grip on power, influence and therefore money.  The papal court considered (but never implemented) a requirement for a license to operate one for similar reasons.  Many of the greatest libraries refused to collect printed books because “everybody knows a real book is a work of art; a beautifully hand-crafted one-of-kind manuscript.”  In the Far East and Islamic world the tradition of calligraphy also held sway for centuries.  Wanna’ try do your job without any printers in the office?

I remember clearly my grandparents’ attitude toward the telephone, especially for long distance calls, back in the 50s & 60s.  The phone was for emergencies and major family news only.  I can still hear my mom telling me, “Say hello, I love you, grandma and then quickly pass the phone to your brother.”  Sounds goofy now, but that was indeed the conventional wisdom.  Wanna’ try to do your job with strictly rationed telephone use?

I remember the weekly management meetings in the late 80s.  For months, we debated about how to control sales reps’ use of e-mail.  “I have reps screwing around with e-mail for 20-30 minutes a day!!!  It’s got to stop!!!”  (And I was with IBM at the time for crying out loud.)  Sure, with all the spam and other abuses, it can still be a pain, but wanna’ try to do your job without e-mail?

You “get” my point.  I don’t need to go through another 8 or 10 examples of the million reasons spewed out as to why each new technology or technique is a bad idea.  You owe it to yourself (and your career) to quickly become proficient with selling your stuff using – at a minimum – your blog, LinkedIn and Twitter.

I hereby go on record with a few predictions…  (Hey, it’s the end of the year and you expect a few predictions, right?)

  • Extensive use of web 2.0 and social media tools will become a critical part of a B2B sales rep’s skill set within 24 months
  • In 2010, proficiency with these tools will start to become a difference maker in the hiring/promotion decision (By 2012, proficiency will be a fundamental requirement)
  • In 2011, we’ll finally have some widely applicable best practices and “how to” books on using this stuff for B2B
  • In 2013, the tools and techniques currently used by the “E-Rep” innovators will be obsolete
  • In 2015, we’ll all tell jokes and embarrassing stories about how “those morons (and I) didn’t get it.”

Happy New Year!

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