Can social networking make money?

 Craig Stolz asks, among other questions, in his blog following the Digital Media Conference in Vermont whether social networking can make money.

And two weeks later, Todd van Hoosear, writing in Topaz Partners’ Tech PR Gems, writes that

There are lots of good examples of B2C social media successes out there (you have to dig, but they’re out there). But try looking for B2B examples. They’re few and far between.

Let me give them an example. 

TTGlive, a website I once worked on, is a traditional B2B site for the UK travel industry. But it is one of the first ever B2B sites in the UK to boast of social netowrking – SmallWorldLabs if you are interested. It is not clamped on just for show. Instead it absolutely aligns itself with the bahviour of part of the industry. Let me explain.

Travel agents in the UK go on what are called “Fam” or “Familiarisation” trips – that is operators take them as guests to destinations round the world, using the trip to educate them on flights, hotels and the destinations themselves. The groups are largely made up of young women who have rarely travelled before. In deed for some it is the trip of a lifetime.

Their fellow travellers, agents like themselves, work for quite different companies. Yet the journey is so intense (and so jetlagged!) that the group bonds brilliantly. Until, that is they return to the UK. Promises are made at Arrivals that everyone will keep in touch and exchange photots but of course nothing of the sort happens.

So TTG launched Fams Reunited. It asks operators (the hosts) to register their fam trips as they come up and set up specific groups. The hosts then encourage agents to set up a profile on TTG’s YourSpace before they go. While on the trip, it is in the interest of operators to encourage their agents to take photos and write reviews of what they are seeing. This is then uploaded on their return. Agents then maintain contact through the social networking functionality of the site and exchange photos of the holiday.

The idea has just been launched in beta and has gathered great interest from operators who also happen to be the advertisers. It allows them to get their product in front travel agents within the context of user generated content.  So I will let you know how it goes.

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About John Welsh

John Welsh has spent his entire working life in business-to-business media, first traditional publishing, having edited three magazines over 14 years, and, second, exhibitions since 2007. He started this blog on 22 June 2008 and ended it on 18 May 2010.
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One Response to Can social networking make money?

  1. Thanks for another example. I’m very curious how it turns out. As I discussed at a panel last night on mobile social networking, there’s a tough balance you have to strike, especially in the B2B space, between size/focus (how many people are in the network and how specialized the network is) and content/stickiness (how much content and conversation is generated, and how often people come back).

    You have to be big enough to hit critical mass when it comes to content creation and chatter in the network, but not too big so that it loses its focus and hence, its usefulness to its members. MySpace hit that point a long time ago. Facebook hit it more recently, but has recognized the risk and done a few things to help shrink things down.

    Please let me know as you come across other examples!

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