Thursday, April 9, 2009

Not for consumers only - Corporate Executive Board (the ITtoolbox people)

In my previous post in this series, I talked about a company (Oracle) who is exploring the use of social media for business-to-business communications. Today I'm going to look at one of the tools that businesspeople use...and the company behind the tool.

Social Media Optimization listed a few of these B2B social media tools:

The most popular and widely known professional social network is LinkedIn, whose audience has more than doubled in the past year and this success has spawned a raft of networks aimed at verticals or niche markets.

OK, I know about LinkedIn, but what other tools are out there?

Among the most prominent business niche social network is ITtoolbox, a 1.3-million-member community of information technology professionals. Other fast growing professional social networks are Legal OnRamp and LawLink for attorneys; and Reel-Exchange, for film and video professionals.

So let's take a look at ITtoolbox, which is actually hosted by Toolbox. Let's learn about the latter:

The network of online communities enables anyone to access the collective knowledge of a worldwide audience of experienced professionals. Through, executives and professionals can collaborate with their peers to resolve problems more efficiently, make better decisions by leveraging best practices and lessons learned, and increase their efficiency in the workplace.

It turns out that ITtoolbox (or Toolbox for IT) is only one of three Toolbox communities.

A Community of 1.4 Million Professionals
Share knowledge with like-minded peers

* Solve problems using peer-tested solutions
* Learn from the challenges of your peers
* Evaluate products with input from users
* Advance your career through networking

The exact same model, down to most of the text, is used for Toolbox for HR and Toolbox for Finance, the latter community only being founded a few months ago:

Toolbox for Finance is the third professional community launched and operated by (formerly ITtoolbox). This new community joins Toolbox for HR , launched in October 2008, and the industry-leading Toolbox for IT , which was launched in 1998 and now serves more than 1.4 million registered members and over 800 advertising partners.

The community is designed to give finance professionals a place to connect with peers, collaborate on common workplace challenges, and stay current with insights from other professionals working on the finance front line. Community members can discuss accounting and compliance approaches, share functional expertise, and provide feedback on products and services. Topics will cover a broad spectrum, including accounting, finance, governance, operations, and strategy.

But these various toolboxes, as well as any other toolboxes that are created in the future (Toolbox for Police, anyone?), are actually a front of sorts for another organization, Corporate Executive Board, which acquired ITtoolbox in August 2007 and began its plan for world domination:

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 16, 2007--The Corporate Executive Board (NASDAQ: EXBD) today announces that it has completed the acquisition of ITtoolbox for $58.9 million. With this acquisition, the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) extends its best practices research, decision-support tools, and executive education services through the addition of an online community that enables IT and business professionals to share knowledge on information technology.

And when you have an online community of IT, HR, and finance professionals, you have a ready-made audience for your products:

CEB is a leading provider of best practices research and analysis focusing on corporate strategy, operations and general management issues. CEB provides its integrated set of services currently to more than 4,700 of the world’s largest and most prestigious corporations, including over 80% of the Fortune 500. These services are provided primarily on an annual subscription basis and include best practices research studies, executive education seminars, customized research briefs and Web-based access to a library of over 275,000 corporate best practices.

It's actually a pretty brilliant move, paying less than $60 million to buy a platform to connect with over a million influential professionals. Perhaps $60/person may be a bit steep, but you're talking about ongoing recruiting here, especially since they're branching out and forming other communities.

Next - Hormel buys FriendFeed (I think you know why).
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