Business Networks or Social Networks – Which do You Prefer?
LinkedIn is a business network that allows you to socialise.
Facebook is a social network that is trying to commercialise.
Both are digital networks that allow you to do certain things and not do other things.
Besides these, there are real world business networks made up of businesses who trade with each other on regular basis – sometimes for decades. Many of these real world business networks are very tightly knit eco-systems where trust, co-operation and accepted rules of conduct make it very easy and cost effective to do business.
Imagine a world where every time a business had to buy raw material or other supplies from another business they had to go through the full due diligence process of establishing mutual trust, understanding and rules of the deal. Commerce would come to a stand-still in such a world.
Now try and imagine the value of these hidden business networks that we just take for granted.
We assume that the coffee we buy from Starbucks in the morning somehow gets grown, picked, sorted, transported, roasted, ground and brewed to arrive in the cup.
The vast business network that silently works behind-the-scenes to make this morning cuppa possible – just in the coffee industry – is worth nearly $24 Billion and employs more than 35 Million people.
In the retail sector, the business network is worth more than $1.5 Trillion. The number of people employed in this sector globally is impossible to count because in many countries the retail trade is so fragmented.
Automotive industry – the second largest such network on the planet – is estimated to be worth close to $1.3 Trillion. In fact just the top 6 commercial networks on the planet are estimated to be worth nearly $4 Trillion.
Given their enormity, it is a wonder that these business networks are neither well understood, not well managed.
While each business network has a vague understanding of the ‘rules of engagement’ for players within the network, there is no common understanding of these across the board.
The key question is that while the rules of engagement on LinkedIn or Facebook or other social networks are relatively clear and easy to follow – are there some guidelines which can help businesses navigate the world of hidden business networks successfully?
In other words – are there ways businesses can engage in networking with each other that produce superior results?
That is an interesting question that I answer in my book THE 5-STAR BUSINESS NETWORK.