Leveraging Social Networks for P2P Collaboration – Are We There Yet?

May 25, 2011 at 5:16 pm Leave a comment

by Beth Vanni, Vice President

Virtually all companies are now beginning to engage in some type of social media with their customers and their partners.  Facebook and Twitter icons are familiar sights on corporate website homepages, as are links to corporate weblogs. In five short years, social media has become the rule rather than the exception, and conspicuous only by its absence in today’s highly collaborative environment. But for all the customer-facing social media activities, what are vendors doing to foster either Partner-to-Vendor (P2V) or Partner-to-Partner (P2P) collaboration and network building using this powerful medium?

P2V networking via social media can be an extremely efficient communications tool that can facilitate ease of doing business – a key priority again for vendors in 2011. There are also tremendous advantages to be gained by encouraging P2P collaboration as a way to foster collaboration among like or complementary partners in need of each other’s capabilities and services.  Yet when we polled vendors on their plans to use social media in communicating with their partners, over 22% of vendors still indicate that they have no plans to actively use social media with channel partners, and less than 11% consider increasing P2P collaboration in any manner as a priority for 2011. Those that are employing social media, are more often than not using it as a means to simply disseminate information rather than a tool for collaboration.

Of the two, P2V collaboration can and should be the first priority for vendors. It is already being implemented on a daily basis through the partner facing staff of many major vendors.  The type of scalable, easy, open lines of two-way communication facilitated by social media not only make it easier for vendors to instantly communicate with multiple partners, but can also serve as a means for partner feedback, and real-time responses to questions and concerns.

For a P2V social media plan to work, however, it must be a dedicated and integrated effort, rather than an afterthought. And it must be a way to bring knowledge in, not just a means by which information is being pushed out. Using social media as an ‘announcement vehicle’ rather than a means to engage in two-way knowledge sharing is counter to its collaborative spirit. (Partners who use social media with their customers in this way are just as guilty as vendors of mistaking simple information dissemination via Facebook or Twitter for an actual customer collaboration strategy.)

P2P collaboration is trickier. It’s a delicate ‘art’ that must start with personal, trusting relationships between a vendor and its partners, which can then be leveraged to envelop communication and collaboration between partners, with the vendor as moderator. Although it can be a tremendous facilitator of knowledge between partners as well as an invaluable relationship-building tool, it is not without its risks and must be carefully monitored. While it does hold possibilities, most vendors would argue that the risks of P2P collaboration in any but the most mature partner relationships outweigh the benefits.

As with any disruptive technology, it takes some time to understand functionality and begin to internalize benefits.   Both vendors and their solution providers are still very much in the experimentation stage with social media for B2B collaboration benefits.  Until solution providers begin to understand and realize the power of social media for customer reach and intimacy, they’re not likely to prioritize its use as yet one more communication or collaboration tool with their vendor partners.

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Entry filed under: Industry Perspective, Partnering Tips, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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