Can you afford to overlook social networking that leads to new business? It would be a big opportunity to pass up, according to Lab42's survey that found 53 percent of business-to-business marketers have gained a customer through LinkedIn.
That's all fine and dandy, except, "Companies lack a tool to improve and manage how their workforce is using social networks," says Patrick Baynes, co-founder and VP, Client Engagement at PeopleLinx, a leading company in social business. "That's a big problem, since employees now have an infinitely scalable, 24/7 presence online and often connectivity with the business' most valuable relationships."
While working at LinkedIn together, Baynes and his PeopleLinx partner, Nathan Egan (co-founder and CEO), pitched the idea of offering professional services. When LinkedIn had no interest, they went out on their own, starting the Philadelphia-based company in 2009 to help organizations and their employees get the most out of social networks.
"The 'drawing board' phase came during the first two years of PeopleLinx when we were offering consulting and training programs," Baynes says. "Companies wanted something with scale that would offer continued engagement, beyond the workshop or training session, and that would give them metrics into whether it was successful or not."
Baynes credits the startups' early clients for much of the success and for the Saas platform they have today. "If it wasn't for that experience, we would have been designing a solution in a vacuum, and instead, we did it shoulder-to-shoulder with Fortune 500 executives who told us what they needed," he says.
The market needed a scalable solution to help improve and manage how their workforce was using social networks. PeopleLinx provides this with its customizable, scalable solution that makes getting engaged on social networks for work fun and simple for employees. Employees can get a relevant score for how well they're doing on LinkedIn, relative to the goals of their business. That score places them on a leaderboard where they can see how they rank against their team or the entire company.
"We consistently see employees get invigorated in their job role when they're included in our programs, and we hear it from the buyers as well," Baynes says. "In most companies, employees don't know how or if they should be using LinkedIn or Twitter for work purposes. And in most cases, are hesitant because it could make them look like a job seeker internally-so they steer clear of it, often missing opportunities. With PeopleLinx, companies are creating a culture of 'It's OK to use social networks at work, and here's some support.' Employees appreciate getting involved with the company's online presence and getting the latest tools to do so."
Prudential Retirement generated a nearly 200 percent increase in connectivity to the financial advisors who sell their products. This is resulting in dozens of anecdotal success stories, the most exciting being a $650 million request for proposal that came inbound from an old advisor Prudential hadn't been engaged with for years.
"Most of our competition focuses on offering a sales or marketing solution that services a segment of a company's workforce," says Baynes. "PeopleLinx is offered as an opt-in benefit for all employees, and really falls under the umbrella of professional development. Becoming proficient and engaged on social networks has a personal benefit for the employee as well as a professional one for the corporation. If your company is providing you with PeopleLinx, chances are you'll be better at using social networks than your kids are."
PeopleLinx has been partnering with social media agencies and training providers, like Financial Social Media, to help meet the demand for their services from small and medium businesses. "In the case of Financial Social Media, individual financial advisors and boutique firms can now access the same tools as larger enterprises, with the high-touch point services of their own consultant. It's a great combination of services and software for the SBM (small and medium business) market and something we hope to expand," Baynes says.
International expansion is big for 2014. The startup just added a head of its Asian operations. And several American Law 100 firms will be rolling PeopleLinx out globally. The company has also begun offering its services in Spanish.
LexisNexis, one of the biggest brands in legal is officially reselling PeopleLinx. This means any law firm in the American Law 100 can purchase PeopleLinx direct from their LexisNexis representative. "It's a big deal for us and for the legal industry who has a big problem getting their busy attorneys to use LinkedIn," Baynes says.
While 100 percent of law firms have a company page on LinkedIn, only 26 percent own a LinkedIn group, according to The Social Law Firm Index.
"I always tell people, 'What we do won't change but how we do it will continue to become better and more innovative.' That 'what' is helping companies improve and manage how their workforce is using social networks. The 'how we do it' might be through offering better tools for engagement, relevant and timely notifications, and business insights on their usage. The days of social business are young and the future is very exciting."
Social Startups, an exclusive column for Social Media Today by Shay Moser, covers a wide variety of social startups-from apps that make sense of opinions to platforms that help publish and gather your best content.