Last week, Kantar Media's TNS released a study that found that almost 60% of social network users in the U.S. do not want to engage with brands online. At the same time, the “Digital Life” study also included the somewhat contradictory finding that 54% of respondents use social networks to research brands.
The 54% are Jeff Giesea's kind of people. He believes online social networks will become more important in the buying process because peer recommendations consistently wield an outsized influence in purchase decisions.
“Social tools will really change the way business is done over the next five to 10 years,” Giesea said.
Giesea, who founded FierceMarkets a decade ago and sold it to Questex Media in 2008, has launched a new business called BestVendor. The company has announced the beta launch of its website, a free social business directory designed to help small-business executives see which Web services, cloud apps and software their peers have rated and recommended.
Using Yelp as a model, BestVendor requires that users rate at least three of their work apps at registration and sign in using their LinkedIn account information. In return for their ratings, users get access to app, services and software recommendations customized for their job functions.
“The real need [for small businesses] isn't transactional,” Giesea said. “It's really figuring out what to buy. It's especially acute for small businesses, which don't have procurement departments and don't have Gartner subscriptions.”
Once users sign up and share their product recommendations, they gain three benefits from participating in BestVendor, Giesea said. First, they can see what everyone else who has signed up has recommended. Second, a “recommendation engine” will make personalized recommendations of apps, services and software. And third, users can use a filter to find recommended products in areas, such as content management systems, where they're looking to buy.
Giesea said the BestVendor site has the potential to bring buyers and vendors together on a larger scale than that of a typical trade publication or his own previous launch, FierceMarkets. On Monday afternoon, BestVendor had 2,906 registered users.
“That's from last Tuesday [when the site launched],” he said. “I don't know if that's good or bad. I'm really impatient to get to 1 million users, personally,” Giesea said.
Outsell Inc. VP-lead analyst Chuck Richard said that while business-oriented social networking plays from Manta to Google are legion, he sees a positive in Giesea's track record. “I have great respect for his insights and skills,” Richard said. “He'd be the wrong man to bet against.”