Recently I came across a paper written almost two years ago by Tony MacKelworth, Social Networks: Evolution of the Marketing Paradigm. It must have been his masters thesis because there is a lot of meat that would impress most marketing academics. MacKelworth now works for Microsoft UK but at the time he wrote the paper, he worked for AMaC, a 2.0 company if there ever was one. By doing so, he had an excellent set of contacts to work with, and managed to get 897 fully completed questionnaires from senior executives worldwide, asking them to rate the various ways they get information that might influence their decision on a business offering.
MacKelworth set out to prove that credence is related to the source of information, though that seems a no brainer. The work is distinguished by spread of its sample and the range of questions he asked. It is particularly difficult to get senior executives to participate in any online survey, so one usually finds that iffy conclusions are drawn on small samples. This study’s implications for B2B marketing are significant.
Telemarketing, SMS ads, banner ads, unsolicited emails – in other words, push communication were discounted by most people and even disdained. It found that recommendations from friends were regarded by most people as the most authorative sources of information regarding external products or services. A company’s web site, and recommendations from individuals’ LinkedIn networks were also respected. The importance of getting a company web site in shape is well understood, but leveraging LinkedIn is more complex.
Would encouraging employees to get to the 500+ level in LinkedIn help a company or increase its staff turnover? Or should it merely encourage the evangelists? My favourite IBM software evangelist, Ed Brill , no matter what his job description, has blogged and fought for IBM for many years and as a result maintains a loyal following of people who also have large LinkedIn networks. My favourite Microsoft evangelist, Eileen Brown has done a similar thing for that company for many years and, sadly, has been laid off. The trouble with such social networks is their value cannot be measured, but as MacKelworth has shown, they are vital. Perhaps his new employers should read his paper.