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BRANDING NEWS: Construction industry gets wired with I-Think

One of the first social networking sites aimed squarely at a specific business sector has sprung up on the Internet.

Think, a think tank for those in the construction industry, has partnered with major property brand DTZ to launch I-Think, a resource for professionals and academics operating in the built environment.

The move by Think is a strong indication that B2B marketers are beginning to embrace Web 2.0 technology and use it to reach encourage brand awareness and debate. The sector has so far been slow on the uptake; of the 32,508 blogs about marketing currently listed on established blog tracker Technorati, only 271 are categorised as being B2B focussed.

Think announced the new site to its industry at its recent annual conference and exhibition, which it holds yearly at the London Excel centre, and will run print advertising in titles including Property Week and Gateway later this month. I-Think marketing manager, Jeremy Mandell, says despite only embarking on a soft launch so far, the site is already growing in popularity. "We've had around 1000 sign ups so far, and that's without the hard launch which we're planning (in association with DTZ) around September," he says.

The site is designed to encourage debate around key industry issues, and encourages anyone with an interest in environmental issues to join. As well as being able to network, users can interact with industry figures, take part in webinars and contribute to debates. Corporate and product profiles can be created on I-Think where white papers, research and product profiles can be placed.

To date, most B2B blogs have been set up either by individuals to discuss generic B2B issues, or by technology companies such as IBM to build supplier relationships and to humanise company image. The move by Think indicates a further advancement in the use of blogging for B2B by encouraging individuals from different strands of an industry to connect with one another. "There is (a worry) that social networking sites can't work for B2B without losing (the need to) look professional, but this can be overcome. This is the way forward," says Mandell.

Cassandra Campbell, sustainability team leader at DTZ, adds, "I-Think will provide the ideal forum for discussing ways of sharing information and best practice - not just for the property industry, but across every sector globally."

i-Think operates in much the same way as YouTube or MySpace does for consumers, and is owned entirely by its users who direct and inform content and facilitate professional industry networking around the globe.


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