Do Social Networks See Organizations as Customers?

108966 With the maturity of many social networks, we should be seeing a better fine tuning of what those networks offer individuals and organizations alike.

However, to an observer it seems that the plan was to enroll oodles of people to put their stuff there and charge advertising money to companies in exchange for eyeballs.

You can see from this chart here that many organizations are maintaining company-related accounts or profiles on social media sites.

Someone has to pay for the data center hosting all the information — and to keep the lights on — right? Looks like that role was intended for organizations.

Many of the social networks, in their haste to build volume with individual accounts have not really thought through the features and benefits available to organizations beyond offering them a pay to play avenue with advertising and/or the recruitment route.

Given that many of these networks need to start converting business, it seems a bit short-sighted, if not immature, to fail to address the point of view of organizations beyond clicks and numbers of followers. It makes it pretty hard to measure something when the metrics are lacking in the first place.

Sure, we have a ton of data — in many cases of useless or wrong data. If you followed the evolution of these services, it’s been URL links shortening companies, monitoring and analytic firms, Twitter clients, and overall companies outside the original network that have provided usefulness when it comes to tracking and correlation at first.

Many social media teams on the company side, although quite stretched, have compensated by creating their own ways of reading the information and integrating it with the organization’s overall marketing and communications metrics in their reporting.

It’s 2010, and the features and benefits to many organizations in social networks are still quite thin.

LinkedIn company profiles

Company LinkedIn Profile If you have a company profile on LinkedIn, you know to expect the social network to pull in news feeds from wherever it will — and not your PR RSS feed, for example. You can, however, link the RSS of your blog — one. So you’ll need to play favorite child.

For those looking to list their company event, they will need to do that through individuals’ personal accounts at the moment. These events are hard to find if you’re not connected to that individual and they’re not broadcast in some other way.

The third important aspect of a company profile is that anyone who has a first degree connection with that company — in other words anyone who works therecan update the profile. You can see the name of the person who updated it right up top by the “favorite this page” new button.

However, your view of it depends on the first and second degree connections you have to that company. [click on image to enlarge]

It makes sense, since this is a social network. However, it would save a candidate or business prospect some time if they could also see a list of declared employees, independent of personal connections.

Of course, you can always upgrade and get more messages, profiles per search, and number of profiles organized. Sales professionals and headhunters use these business options. The upgrade still doesn’t resolve the company profile questions on the data LinkedIn decides to pull.

Would it make sense for LinkedIn to offer companies more options?

Facebook company pages, community pages, groups

Facebook Help

[click on image to enlarge]

Can it get any more confusing in this network, aside from the terrific navigation system that encourages the most interesting messages and actions? That was a sarcastic remark, in case you missed it. Company pages are created by companies.

Tamar Weinberg wrote an excellent post recently about how to use Facebook for business and marketing. In another post, Weinberg and her community talk candidly about some of the issues Facebook needs to address. A few key points germane to this conversation are:

  • if you are officially representing your company, you’d want to create an official page
  • creating the page off a business account will mean that type of page can’t be customized with static fbml like it would if built on a user profile and it puts the page in danger as it violates Facebook’s TOS (Maggie McGary)
  • developing a page from a personal user profile will be an issue when organizations won’t be able to remove the owner or transfer ownership if people leave the company. It’ possible, apparently you need to have an “in” at Facebook to have this done
  • responding or joining the conversation as a user, from your own profile, if you’re the company page administrator, is not possible — in other words, you remain a representative of the company and can post only in official capacity and not as yourself
  • contests can be run by business owners on their company pages only after spending a lot of money in ads
  • the company has not addressed standard security questions, which organizations have processes to address as part of doing business
  • there’s a need for better page metrics off the page insights section to compare post quality and interactions on the site with fan demographics (new fans, unsubscribed fans, page views, etc). Right now the two graphs are difficult to compare because they deal with totally different time frames, which limits a company ability to improve the page based on what fans respond to (Rachel Vincent)
  • want to delete a passed event? Guess what, Facebook will considered it canceled and email all those you had invited to it. Did I mention it already happened? Why this hard coding to hang on to information?

Coca-cola-searchIt looks like Facebook is making up its own rules as it goes — or pleases. Because it recently introduced community pages, which are not driven by companies, and created some more confusion.

David Fleet explains community pages 101, and Jeremiah Owyang weighs in on how community pages and privacy changes impact brands.

[image courtesy of All Facebook]

Some main points for you to consider about community pages, which I would not go as far as calling innovation:

  • this is a feature that aggregates content from Wikipedia (whoe editorial community is not necessarily friendly to organizations or brands) and Facebook wall posts
  • it creates confusion among users and causes issues for brands that now need to monitor those pages for aggregated content that may be out of context
  • there are roughly 6.5MM at first launch
  • there is no way for people who want to connect with a community page to add their own picture or edit the information
  • they introduce the need to have third party advocates monitor and update Wikipedia pages
  • this feature creates a need for companies and brands that are not on Facebook to consider building a company page there — this is the same argument discussed for Google Sidewiki

Many organizations would be better off building their own community with the support of their existing customer base. Especially for B2Bs that are in niche or specialized fields and industries, the proprietary community route vs. Facebook page makes more sense to zero in on useful content and dialogue.

Twitter opportunity

The social network launched a new ad platform in mid-April — sponsored tweets, which they call promoted tweets. The initial group of brands participating in the pilot include Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks, and Virgin America. From Twitter’s blog:

Promoted Tweets will be clearly labeled as “promoted” when an advertiser is paying, but in every other respect they will first exist as regular Tweets and will be organically sent to the timelines of those who follow a brand. Promoted Tweets will also retain all the functionality of a regular Tweet including replying, Retweeting, and favoriting. Only one Promoted Tweet will be displayed on the search results page.

Can we say favoriting, or is it favoring? With social media we keep inventing new verbs. The next part I like a lot:

There is one big difference between a Promoted Tweet and a regular Tweet. Promoted Tweets must meet a higher bar—they must resonate with users.

There, you have a chance to vote with your behavior, for a change. Adrian Chan asks some interesting questions about Twitter’s promotional strategy, building off a post by Altimeter Group. Unless you’re the advertiser, in this case, you’re probably taking the side of the regular Twitter user.

What’s in it for them? What would make these promoted tweets worthwhile to pass along? Something that is interesting and compelling, a story, a game, something to join that goes beyond a mere discount offer would make the cut.

If you are the marketer in charge, how could you look at this as an opportunity beyond your organic presence? As Chan and Altimeter said, this would give you the opportunity to:

  • measure resonance of a specific offer, topic, or promotion
  • help boost a live event attendance or subscription better than a directory listing, if your customers are on Twitter
  • provide feedback on messaging, kind of like the A/B split tests with your Web site
  • help identify when brand influencers are online and what resonates with them
  • potential splitting of paid for resonance and organic or authentic resonance
  • mixing of paid and earned mentions may create confusion

Will there be such a thing as a network of mercenaries with high follower count that will provide guaranteed, instant results? As Chan puts it. Will the companies with less interesting messaging and incentive want to pump up the volume on getting in front of users by paying more — just like in interruption advertising?

It’s quite likely they will. It’s the path of least resistance over developing products and services that people actually want and need and creating permission assets to reach those who do. The more things change, the more they stay the same.


These are three social networks I use that have introduced recent changes to the way they integrate business accounts. We’ll be looking at other social networks and business implications in future posts. Because there are interesting things happening in networks with fewer users at the moment.

Not all of the new features presented by LinkedIn, Facebook, and (maybe) Twitter are useful or intuitively helpful to businesses. True, the idea behind social networks services is to build and reflect off social relations among people who share interests and activities.

They do have one thing in common with the definition of brand — they are individually- and emotionally-driven. You probably read about the movement on the interoperability between social networks, led by technologies like OpenID and OpenSocial.

Given the tension between design for the user and being inviting for organizations to invest, I do wonder if social networks see organizations as customers. Do they?

© 2010 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.

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