I can safely say that I consider Biznik my online Chamber of Commerce and much like any networking organization a person belongs to, it's what you put into it that you get out of it. I look forward to seeing Biznik evolve.
Last summer, in an attempt to distinguish Biznik, I started thinking that Biznik was not a social network. Rather, Biznik is a community of independent business people who connect using a social networking technology. Despite Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, following suit with a similar claim that LinkedIn is not a social network, I've recently begun to swing back from this thinking.
Biznik is a social network. To be more precise, Biznik is a business-related social graph of your independent business peers. People do business with those they trust. The Biznik social network provides a platform to build your reputation as a business professional and establish that trust.
This idea comes on the heels of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg's in-depth interview with Tim O’Reilly and Federated Media’s John Battelle at the Web 2.0 Summit 2010 last week, one of technology’s premiere conferences. Zuckerberg offered up a number of intriguing sound bites about the state of what has become the largest social network in the world with more than 500 million people (and more than 50% using it every day). He touched on a number of topics including an explanation of the future of messaging, and commented on FB's perennial privacy concerns.
When asked if he was interested in getting businesses on Facebook, (as well as people), he faltered. He appeared to equate small business as little more than smaller versions of the big brands that use Facebook's Pages product. In light of the sheer volume of articles, workshops, books, webinars, conferences and consultants who make a living from teaching how to use Facebook for your business, he is grossly out of touch with how very small businesses - such as Mom & Pops, companies-of-one, micropreneurs, freelancers, independent contractors, and solo service providers - network with one another.
Battelle clarified the question: "Are you interested in the business social graph?"
Zuckerberg replied: "Are businesses friends with each other?" (pause) "...or by business social graph, you mean professional connections between people."
(Point of reference, Zuckerberg coined the term "social graph" in 2007 to describe relationships between individuals online, reserving the term "social network" to describe relationships in the real world.)
Battelle clarifies, "Or between businesses..."
Zuckerberg: "I don't know what that means."
Batteller: "Well, businesses do business with each other all the time..."
Zuck: "Yeah..." (laughs)
Battelle: "Ok, we'll move on."
[Watch the full interview on Mashable.]
How does Facebook's blind spot on small business affect your networking?
If you listen to Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn's not going to provide the answer. Weiner followed Zuckerberg on the stage of the Web 2.0 Summit the next day. Weiner contrasts LinkedIn's focus on the professional graph vs. Facebook's focus on the social graph. He says that people want to keep their personal and professional lives separate. If for no other reason than the one that can be summed up in two words: bong hit.
But entrepreneurs - small ones, building small local businesses - know that a blending of one's personal and professional connections is not something we can avoid. In fact, I argue that the ability to blur the line between work and play, and to do business inside our personal community, is one of our greatest strengths. Weiner describes Facebook as a personal/social utility in contrast to LinkedIn, a professional network for the management of your career. In both definitions, one thing is missing - your business community.
In environments where a professional relationship is strictly defined by a vendor-customer transaction, a whole subset of your small business social graph is missing. Where do you network with your advisors, collaborators, peers, consultants and even your competitors - at least the ones with whom you're on a friendly basis?
Where can you establish your reputation; discover business-related resources; participate in business-related conversations; and build trust among those you can share business with? The professional relationships you form on Biznik will both strengthen your reputation, and lead to new business. Biznik is a place where business is personal.
For the self-employed business owner, your business can be an extension of your self-expression. Your business brand mingles with your personal brand; and your business identity blurs with your personal identity. While the degree to which your professional relationships become personal will vary; when your professional connections mingle with your personal ones, your professional relationships not only lead to new business, they lead to new opportunities, new ideas, and inspiration for a new direction.
I challenge you to view Facebook, LinkedIn and Biznik in this light. Facebook: your social network. LinkedIn: your professional network. Biznik: your business network!
Turning your business network into business
Like any business networking relationship - you have to actually DO something for it to be successful. The underlying purpose is to establish trust so others feel comfortable sending business in your direction. Biznik makes it much easier to establish trust and manage/maintain/improve your business reputation. The technology angle provides leverage and removes friction by making your reputation more scalable and thus providing the foundation for business growth.
The Facebook profile is personal. (It contains your relationship status for gosh-sake!) Your business Page on Facebook? It's missing all the attributes of you the person behind the business. The Biznik user profile represent you the business person. It contains all the business-related content that is missing from your Facebook profile, such as what you do, the name of your business, your business categories, your company's branding and your professional web sites. These attributes are designed with the sole purpose of strengthening your professional reputation in connection with your business. And in acknowledgement of the 24 out of 25 million micro companies that operate in a local market, the Biznik member profile is geo-located, meaning members and content is sorted by zip codes, providing the opportunity for both global and local business relationships.
Because I talk about the Search Engine Optimization that comes from social networks a lot, I'm not going to introduce it here, but it's worth noting that when the social network is business-centric, the SEO becomes business-centric too. Meaning, the benefits impact your business and drives traffic to your business site. (Learn more here.)
It's undeniable that Facebook plays a role in business, and we're going to help you leverage Facebook to maximize the business benefit. (Despite Mark!) Biznik is a critical hub for your business relationships.
Stay tuned - development is already underway. As always, we welcome your thoughts as we intend to make Biznik the authoritative source for your business social graph.
Learn more about the author, Lara Feltin.
I can safely say that I consider Biznik my online Chamber of Commerce and much like any networking organization a person belongs to, it's what you put into it that you get out of it. I look forward to seeing Biznik evolve.
I've always considered Facebook, LinkedIn and Biznik exactly as you've mentioned/challenged here. Since I'm all work and no play (well, work is play, for I love my work), I've met more good friends on Biznik than anywhere else in recent years.
I think of Facebook as an online yellow pages and chat tool where I can stay in touch with old friends, and LinkedIn as a professional profile I ought to occasionally maintain.
Then there's Biznik, a site where I can meet and enjoy good times with small business owners who share a passion for working hard to realize their goals and dreams. I like the fact that Biznik provided a great way to put on and promote events too. And I l-o-v-e the fact that Biznik provides useful tools to help people happily and profitably move away from the corporate life.
Thanks for keeping up the great work.
I think part of what's going on there in that vid too is a revealing of Zuckerberg's limited interview and people skills set...but I'd probably have drool coming out of the corner of my mouth as well, given the same situation.
Great article Lara. Great way to frame this situation. I not only agree with what Taylor is saying -- I'll take it a step further and call out the fact that there's a bona fide educational aspect to Biznik...yet, to those outside of it, for some reason it remains a mystery.
At our local indexing chapter meeting a couple months ago we had a speaker talking about social networking, and Biznik appeared far down on his list...he almost didn't seem to know anything about it.
Maybe I'm wrong about this, but it also seems to be a bit of a Seattle/Portland thing even though it might be taking off in other places.
I came to Biznik for different reasons than many others; to learn. I was a planner with a geography background -- and ZERO background in business. I've learned so much in the last couple of years; it's truly amazing. When I speak of Biznik, I often times refer to it as my "poor man's MBA."
That's the highest compliment I can pay.
Has FB done that? Does LinkedIn carry that capability? IMO, absolutely not. LinkedIn is an excellent validator, but in many ways just sits there like a slug. As for FB; I know it's helpful to other types of businesses, but I steer way clear of it, as it's a bit to kitschy for the sort of thing I do.
Again, this is all through the lens of a technical writer without a formal business background. I'm of just one opinion...but you're doing great so far.
Going back to my MBA comment, what about playing off the concept of "Biznik University?" Just a tongue in cheek idea that came to me.
I think each social media web site serves a different group of people with different needs. It certainly does for me.
I use Biznik to stay abreast of trends and small business education, Facebook to stay in touch with my friends and their personal trends, and LinkedIn to stay in touch with people I know in a strictly business sense and business trends.
Thanks for the affirmation, guys. You're providing some good fodder for some Biznik testimonials. I appreciate it!
@Paul, the concept of a "Biznik University" has come up many times over the years. I love to hear how much people are learning here from each other, even without a formal education program!
Another great and informative article. I really like your quote "Like any business networking relationship - you have to actually DO something for it to be successful. The underlying purpose is to establish trust so others feel comfortable sending business in your direction. Biznik makes it much easier to establish trust and manage/maintain/improve your business reputation."
Trust is the key to successful business relationships, and Biznik is the best way I have found to form the relationships so you can build on the trust element.
I also like what Paul said. Biznik is a great resouse for those who want to learn. I have written several articles about taxes and businesses and, although they are old articles, I have new readers every day. That tells me that people are hungry for information that will help them in thier businesses.
Great article! Indeed there are many outposts available for entrepreneurs to seed their trust building efforts– and more are being born daily it seems. This is my favorite!
From my experience (since May 2010) Biznik has been a highly valued resource for me as well. I believe the value is in the quality of information that is shared here. Whatever you are seeking–facts, inspiration,guidance,clarity and confidence– BIznik articles offer brilliant insights contributed freely for the benefit of all concerned!
Of course we're participating because we are all seeking greater growth and expansion in professional and business development opportunity. But beyond that, BIznik members respect an important prosperity principle–opportunities follow those who create value for others first. The conversation seems richer and elevated here.
thanks for your insights! to your inspired success, Thomson
Another fine article! I think that the biggest difference with Biznik -- and the reason that it is my primary online presence -- is that it is oriented to small business. Facebook is primarily person-to-person (though big businesses see ad opportunities) and LinkedIn is mostly a site for professionals to keep in touch.
Biznik fills a unique niche, and that is why I support it so strongly!
I think our business IS an extension of our self-expression.
I agree that Biznik is a business network and SEO is great.
And I think that we can build a customer network in Facebook if that's where our customers are.
Very interesting article Lara. It certainly made me think.
It's true, with my FB page it's more one-sided. I mean, I put information out and hope my Likes respond. I do what I can to solicit feedback and dialogue, but I don't get to see what's going on with my Likes unless they share something on my wall, or I go to their profile if we are friends.
The same is somewhat true for Biznik, except I have full access to my connections. We can message each other, but unless I go to their profile I won't see promotions they're offering or their Twitter feed.
I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it's the reality. Perhaps you hope to address that by adding in more social business opportunities.
Thank you for a thought provoking article.
Very provocative article. Facebook emphasizes an "everything to everyone" approach, which creates inevitable blind spots. While it won't be going away anytime soon, the future holds many opportunities for Biznik (and others like it) to do a better job filling the needs of niches within the giant social universe.
Lara, your articles are always spot-on. Biznik offers so much more than the most talked-about social networks because it is accessible, personal and has a wide net of options. It's #1 on my list!
@Arden, you bring up an interesting point of distinction. It's important to look at who is the primary audience of the social network you're participating in.
The Facebook Fan Page which has evolved into business pages, were designed to market to your customers. Do you know how many "fans" (the people who "Like" your business page) are potential customers? How many are business peers with a strong likelihood of sharing business with you?
The Biznik profile was designed for business networking with your peers. In the game of networking, participation, and showing up is at the foundation.
Reputations and relationships are formed through participation on Biznik. People only do business with people they trust. If you don't show up and participate, you're not building trust.
Because the focus is on you, the business person, the Biznik profile is optimized with business-related content that strengthens the your reputation and contributes to your trust factor. Take a closer look at your Facebook profile - where's the link to your business site (there isn't one). Where's your job title, what you do, or a place for your logo?
The Info tab on your Facebook business page, doesn't include much more than the basics. Biznik's FB page feels pretty bare-boned. There's a place for one link, a company overview, our mission, and our products. Nowhere on Biznik's FB business page is there a reference to the people responsible for Biznik - me (the cofouder) or Matt (the Community Manager). Biznik is about people first. Business people, first.
Search Engine Optimization is a large part of this conversation too, because business people believe that when they participate online it will benefit their findability.
Some social networks provide outbound links to your own site, some don't. (The Facebook profile does not include any outbound links. Business pages are permitted one outbound link under the Info tab.) And many social networks (Facebook included) don't reward participation on their network with SEO for your own site. Biznik does.
Each time you participate on Biznik, your participation is accompanied by your name, and a link to your profile. A profile filled with business-related content and company branding. In many cases the action is also accompanied by your job title (which is where you should put your most optimized keyword). And your profile contains a link to your own web site on the default page (not hidden under an Info tab).
All features designed for YOU, the business person, and not just the person who happens to also be associated with a business.
I'm getting long-winded here...
@Arden, you also wrote: "Perhaps you hope to address that by adding in more social business opportunities."
The sort answer is yes, we will be addressing this. I believe social networking technology provides the ability to do a lot of the networking for you. We are exploring how to make the time you spend on Biznik more efficient, while at the same time introducing you to extremely relevant people and revealing ways you can follow up with them.
I'm also interested in revealing which fans of your FB business page are actually business-related, and providing opportunities to engage with them in ways that goes beyond posting a status update to your wall.
Lara, reading your article reminds me of why I enjoy Biznik so much - it is for entrepreneurs to connect, learn, grow, and collaborate. I don't know of any other platform like Biznik, and I treasure it.
I also utilize other networks for other things - and what I like most about Biznik is the spirit and energy I feel at in-person events and in well thought out articles as well as groups on Biznik.
Old networking models where you must refer certain people because they are in your group, or where you must pay a monthly fee to belong are being challenged now.
The jury is still out for many of us on how effective our FB Business page is/will be, and whether Twitter gets us more revenues, or how we use our LinkedIn profile and group participation to gain visibility.
Until I see anything that compares to what Biznik offers - I will recommend it to every entrepreneur who is looking to grow their business - because - for much of what has been said above -- it would be silly NOT to be on Biznik. Keep up the great work!
Well written and well said as always Lara. You lay out the distinctions well, and members of Biznik would do well to study them in deciding where to allot their precious time.
Biznik's focus on small business has always been one of it's greatest advantages. After joining, I immediately enrolled other like-minded small business owners in my community to join and network using all the many features Biznik offers. We now smoothly engage in a wide variety of networking activities through the Biznik site, attend each others events, refer, and make recommendations as well as give advise to each other: each move usually more efficient than other options; and each move a boost to our web presence at the same time.
This fabulous functionality and the flexibility to adapt and adjust rapidly has always set Biznik apart and made it uniquely suited to a small business person's needs.
(I hesitate to bring this up, yet at the same time it seems worth sticking my neck out for. I hope it is received with the helpful nature with which it is intended.)
Identities are tough things to talk about because as an outsider to your development process, I'm not anywhere near as invested as you.
Although Biznik's growth is certainly impressive, I've often marveled at Biznik not gaining in numbers in the way that LinkedIn or Facebook have, especially as more and more people leave the corporate lifestyle to start small businesses. Biznik offers so much more than other social networking sites, and is so well focused on helping people learn, connect and grow their business. Your post spurred me to think about the brand messaging differences between Facebook and Biznik.
Facebook takes the Coca-Cola approach. Much like 'Enjoy Coke', you can 'Find us at Facebook' or 'Follow us' at Facebook. They're pretty generic phrases, yet they stimulate thoughtful, easy connection and action.
Biznik's tag line 'Going it alone, together', on the other hand, makes people think, but it doesn't stimulate action, and it could apply to virtually anything. That's not to say you tag line is without merit, but it could be better. When I write a tag line, I make sure it is specific to the one business for whom I'm writing it.
Like I mentioned above, identities are hard to bring up as an outsider. You interact with your identity every day; you reinforce its validity in your own mind, and you naturally become attached to it's parts and characteristics (which, by the way, is why people are so defensive about their logo, tag line, brand – the components actually become part of you). That's why it's called an identity. Your tag line is the important part of your brand that tells people what you stand for and/or what you do for them.
Thing is, new people who encounter your brand are not invested. They need to be stimulated in order to connect. Your tag line has the ability to stimulate them to check you out, interact, and join.
It seems to me that the Biznik tag line could more succinctly describe the value Biznik brings to the table as a unique social network, while stimulating more people to check it out.
(I fully expect this comment will see me stabbed in the heart with appetizer skewers, but I can take the heat.)
Over the past month, I had an enlightening (for me, of course) ah ha. It was that moment of clarity where I had heard something before - probably many times - but this time I really got it...
As in the verb, "to converse." converse, verb |kənˈvərs| [ intrans. ], engage in conversation
So, via my pages, my profiles, my feeds, and my blogs...I've focused more on starting and engaging in a conversation. And, the results have been amazing! I've met new people, reconnected with associates from years past, and really had a great time learning.
Thanks for sharing this with us; it's all about the people; I get it...
@Kelly. No stabbing's going to come from me! I always welcome thoughtful responses, and constructive criticism. Thank you for sharing your view.
I agree that the Biznik's tagline needs work. There's been quite a bit of conversation on it recently. Starting with this post by Karen Mathieson in Biz Talk called, What's in a Tagline.
Later that week I published the blog post, I Don't Actually Think Networking Sucks, in response to the cheeky tagline Biznik's held for 5 years: "Networking That Doesn't Suck."
We've got a running list of possible taglines on a whiteboard in the office. I've been trying out "Introduce. Network. Repeat" in my signature line.
@Jason, glad to hear of the A-Ha moment. Thanks for sharing your experience.
@Lara. Whew, breathing sigh of relief... :-)
Your old tagline, "Networking That Doesn't Suck" was right for the time. Biznik really changed the game. Now that things are changed, you have an opportunity to improve again.
I believe Biznik can create something that is just as true, catchy, and even viral as 'become a fan', or 'follow me' to garner the attention you deserve.
I read Kelly's earlier comments with interest and thought, "It is true... the devil's in the details." Something like an outdated tag line can be a real drag especially when the organization it represents is so much more. Lara's reply indicating a change is being considered was good news, and I'm anxious to hear what develops.
Pretty interesting, Lara. I hadn't heard about Zuckerberg's comment until reading you article. Sort of surprising to think that he's unaware of the hundred of thousands of small businesses connecting via Facebook.
That said, I think we all use these tools differently. I love Biznik as a community where I can connect with other solopreneurs. It's a great resource for small business information and support....including articles like yours. Thanks much for writing such a good one!
Great article. I think in all the smoke and mirrors of "Social Media" we forget that we have been doing social media actions online since the beginning. I have always considered the passing around of Web Video social, or the commenting on one's blog social, or the bookmarking of one's website social. We are just now realizing that business is still business and in small business we do business with those we know and trust. And "Like!"
A great article Lara! Can't believe I missed reading it when it originally posted.
Your sentiment "I argue that the ability to blur the line between work and play, and to do business inside our personal community, is one of our greatest strengths." is something that I have been saying to people for the last few years. Love how you put the words on the page.
We as social professionals in a new world of online forums and networks need to keep our personal/professional selves in check. Because one is going to influence the other. Period.
When I see people being 'social' and talking about their great adventures that are between an R and X rating, I cringe. Why? because often that very person is then promoting their program or product in the next post or two. The two worlds collide and what that does is tear at that know like and TRUST factor.
Biznik is a great place to show ones personality and business mind at the same time. All the while building the friendship and relationship of K.L.T. which as we know is imperative to our collective success.
Just this week my article on Biznk about who we are giving sanction to, was shared by a fellow Biznik (that I don't "know") to a friend who is not a Biznik. That friend emailed me to thank me for the article and inquired about working with me.
That is the beauty and power of the Business Social Graph!
Hi all -- [I'm one of the newer kids joining the Biznik community...despite my independence for a few years now. So, take my comments with that perspective of not having too many miles on my Biznik tires personally.]
Here's how I think of this. As a business owner you have many choices of which communications tools to pull out of your marketing bag and Facebook is just another one. A place to spread your word, hear from your prospect/active/past customers and engage in a dialog with them. I don't now and have never considered it as a haven for getting the support and education to build your business in the way Biznik offers. Apples and oranges.
As for Zuckerberg missing the big picture when it comes to where Facebook and Small/Independent Business owners intersect on the Venn Diagram? I'm going to just blame it on his youth and his myopic view of FB in general. I like that FB and LinkedIn very distinct -- and that Biznik deserves (and will get) a place at that table of success.
So -- from a pure-bred marketers perspective (which is what I have), it's all just a matter of figuring out who you need to talk with (peers, prospects, clients) and where the best place is to engage with them...and how. Sometimes FB is the answer for that questions, but for SMB networking and support, not so much.
That's my $.02. Keep the change.
An excellent article which inspired me to add 'Social v Business Platforms ... Do you know the Difference' to my recent Facebook Protocol: Friends Rule article featured here on Biznik.
I absolutely agree that for the self-employed business owner, our businesses should be an extension of our self-expression, where our business brand mingles with our personal brand and our business identity blurs with our personal identity. I also agree with you that despite Mark Zuckerberg's apparent lack of understanding of the concept of building B2B business relationships, we should press on regardless. Well done Biznik for making the difference in this regard and for providing us with an excellent platform to do just that!
Great to be in contact with someone who is keeping an eye on the trends at the highest level.
Many thanks. Sue
Zuckerberg's smart. He's savvy. His network is also "sexy" to the majority. But he's still lacking perspective, humility and he's not listening as well as he should.
So, yes, there are a LOT of cracks in FB that can be fulfilled and I'd definitely say Biznik is filling one of those deeper cracks and despite FB pages being an interesting tool to provide exposure to each of our businesses, he & his sister (head of marketing) failed to realize he started WWIV with small business owners. Do we really want visitors to surf to FB to give everything we want to give them in our website? No, we want visitors to ultimately come to us...and our websites.
So, yes, Zuckerberg has the blinders on right now and until FB takes off the blinders, Biznik and the many other sites on the 'net that realize he's not as savvy as he could be can leverage it to their benefit. I'm excited to help whenever you all want b/c I believe in Biznik and am very greatful (yes, I meant to spell it with the 'e' and w/out the 'a') that biznik was created by you and the team!
Biznik is a Business Socialverse that is the glue between events and gathers, where one-on-one engagement can then translate into online engagement.
With the purpose of creating awareness, community, and prosperity. It's Great!
I think you said something very key in the comments... Biznik is not so much business-to-business networking as it is a network of business PEOPLE. Who among us doesn't feel just a bit out of place with their "corporate" buddies and their employed (or even unemployed) friends?
As business people, we share many similar concerns, challenges, dreams and hopes. Yes, we're interested in SEO, marketing tactics, how to network more effectively and raise our profitability, but unlike members of a certain career trade, our business (typically) is a much more integrated piece of our lives than a 40-hour per week job. It's not just a paycheck, and it's more than a "career," it's (oftentimes) the expression of who we are, and the culmination of a dream.
I see Facebook as a place for both personal and professional connections, LinkedIn more the latter, but Biznik is the place where we know we can make personal connections with other business people.
Thanks for chiming in, Kate. This article was published a year ago, so I had to revisit the comments to see what you referenced. I'm afraid I don't see where I state that Biznik is, "not so much business-to-business networking." On the contrary, I believe very much that a business-to-business networking platform is exactly what Biznik is.
To me, Biznik is a community of independent business people, that includes functionality that fascilitates business-to-business networking with one's peers -- other independent business people.
What Biznik is not is a marketing tool. Biznik was not intended to be a place to find your customers.
If your customers happen to be indie business people, then you may feel like you hit the jackpot here. I caution B2B contractors from seeing their fellow Bizniks only as potential customers.
Perhaps that's what you meant by "business-to-business networking" - as in, a marketing platform for people with a business-to-business product or service?