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Private Social : A B2B wake up call


By Jagdish Belwal, CIO, Tata Motors

We have a large Whatsapp group of Indian CIOs. Its a busy group and beyond the jokes and motivations, we share notes on preferred vendors, technology recommendations, open positions, etc. Most conversations are a group ping and then moving on to a private chat to discuss one on one.

In the last few months, I have shared the existence of this group with 2 of our large partners – sharing the negative sentiments about them in our group. They have felt uncomfortable, obviously, because there is no way for them to know these sentiments. I would like to call this phenomenon Private Social.

Social media is a good listening tool to customer reactions, as we all know and do. This has been mostly consumer facing – consumers taking to FB and Twitter. B2B customers haven’t used social media to voice their OGR (Opinions, Grievances or Recommendations) with their suppliers. B2B suppliers are then sure to be lulled to a “We need not worry about social media” comfort zone.

Welcome Private Social – Chat Groups of professionals freely sharing OGRs. B2B suppliers, especially those who have been in a dominant power position need to wake up and worry about this reality. Their worries multiply when you find no social media tools (‘whatsapp sentiment analysis’ search didn’t yield useful results on google) to sniff and analyse sentiments on group chats. Thats why this social is private – Private Social.

Since the entry effort to create a private social network of like minded professionals/ customers is so low, B2B sellers need to worry about it and take some serious steps. I can think of a few –

KISS – Age old KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID. B2B tends to have complex terms and conditions and pricing (old tech vendors for sure!). Given relative transparency in private social groups, you will not have an opportunity to explain the price differences between two deals. You will never know if detrimental opinions about you have been formed for two fully justifiable prices on two different T&Cs.

Are people working on it. Yes – I loved a vendor who recently told me that there are two line items in their price list. They are safe.

Customer Experience is King not only for consumers, for B2B customers also. You need to focus on the experience right from selling – contracting – product – installation/implementation – execution partners – support. In IT, the cost of a project failure for partner was negligible – it could be blamed on SI partner, requirement complexity, governance, etc. etc. No longer – you are responsible for yourself, your partners and your support for my success.

Right Selling – You are screwed if you sell wrong. Period. Put customer’s fundamental value requirements before your quarter end pressures!

Listen to your Front Line – What a customer is sharing on private social groups has already been told to your front line sales and support people – if you cared to listen seriously. Please find ways to get raw feedback from your front line. And please don’t shoot the messenger (thats why the front line keeps quiet).

Advocacy Focus – Focusing on advocacy means you handhold your customers to create true success for them by the means of your offering. This goes beyond typical functional silos you or customer may have. You gain customer advocacy only if your customer succeeds, not by closing a deal.
As a CIO, I feel good to be part of my CIO groups on whatsapp. I am able to know inside stories about partners, share experiences, and make better decisions. My partners have no visibility into these which makes me comfortable with the privacy of my social chat groups. They can’t listen, but hope they are listening…. I am no less empowered than my own socially active consumers.


Note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn on the author’s page, and is being published here with the author’s permission.

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