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Social Networks: Commercial Lever or Management Setback?

May 9th 2009

Social Networks

Obviously, it is a hot topic that firstly imposes a proposal for a definition. I will adopt the definition of "Social Network" as proposed by Wikipedia. It strikes me as fair and well documented.

This definition puts me first in front of two fascinating facts. The first is that the term "Social Network" was introduced in 1954 by John A. Barnes. The second is that the analysis of social networks would find its theoretical foundations, among others, in scientific publications dated as far back as 1741.

So are we really talking about a hot topic or a new, emerging phenomenon?

As with many realities that sometimes appear to be entirely new and innovative, the novelty effect is frequently the simple result of an amplification linked to the emergence of a tool supporting, automating, nourishing a reality that has existed for a very long time.

The old evolutionary "Tool - Knowledge" waltz of the human being gives rise to the consecration of "new" realities and the disappearance of others. A phenomenon of natural selection from which knowledge emerges and engulfs our realities—the best suffocating the least efficient.

So what is it that makes a reality suddenly prevail? When it becomes more valuable than another, of course, but as the notion of utility is subjective, that it depends on the need to be filled and on the facility (the tool) with which we can supply it, here we are now better installed to assess the actual relevance of social networks in business management.

Do social networks represent a real commercial lever for the company or not? In my opinion, absolutely. But under some, if I may, "old" terms and conditions.

To insist, there is nothing new in social networks except that they are now more easily visible, identifiable, and exploitable thanks to the web, the ultimate tool of the new man! At least, until he finds a new, better tool.

In prehistoric times for the youngest of us, did owning more business cards than your coworker automatically make you sell more? I do not believe it.

Oops ... I can hear the next generation shouting names at me: "Listen carefully, Dan, you haven't understood anything about social media. It's always the quality of your circle of contacts that counts, not the quantity." An argument I can only submit to. So that the concept of "Six degrees of separation" is really useful and a concrete lever, the circle of contacts must be of quality. At the same time, quantity can play an interesting role as a natural catalyst, but that might be the subject of another post.

However, here is my downside and my suggestion for additional nuance.

Firstly, the notion of "quality" here calls not only to the credibility of your contact concerning your objective but, above all, to the quality of your human relationship with it in terms of the level of mutual trust included in your relationship. Is it ready to support you vigorously in a strategic situation?

Otherwise, knowing many people who are very likeable to you makes you a certainly entertaining individual, but not necessarily impactful and distinctive. In business, staying on the sympathy stage is likely to get you stuck on the first degree. At this distance, you don’t need your social network on the web. An email and even a phone call can be very effective.

Second, with the current fusion and explosion of contact networks that are growing at an exponential rate, tell yourself that launching your social network on the web requires de facto that you constantly manage it subsequently in terms of its composition and animation if you want to maintain your virtual relationships at a constant level of efficiency.

If you can introduce this new activity into your daily workload, the commercial leverage of social networks could greatly surprise you, that is to say, concretely increase your sales by giving you the tool to automate and accelerate a pre-existing, healthy, and efficient networking approach without neglecting the essential marketing leverage of greater visibility if your target customers visit the web regularly.

I believe it is entirely relevant here to refer to my previous post: Don't Confuse Tool and Solution, because we are faced with a situation where it is necessary to sharpen one's critical sense on the potential contribution of this technological lever, hoping to minimize disappointments.

If the effort seems impossible to reconcile with your current schedule, my suggestion would be to steer clear of it or take it one step at a time.

Suppose you abandon yourself to virtual networks without any shame. In that case, you may wonder why someone suddenly informs you that he is currently on route 20 in the direction of Montreal, that he went to see the comedian Martin Matte last night, that he thinks Carbonneau should come back as coach of the Montreal Canadiens, or that he thinks of redecorating his bathroom.

In which case, unless you are an anthropologist rather than a manager, your new virtual friends will then consume a significant portion of your precious time, time that would probably be more useful elsewhere for your business.

 

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