Tradeshift Is Social Media for Businesses

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When it comes to social media, having a strong presence in the social networking world of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (LNKD) is a must-have for small businesses promoting themselves to the outside world.

Small businesses should also connect via social networking with customers and suppliers. Tradeshift labels itself as a global social business network that focuses on building business relationships and improving transactions through e-invoicing.

The company is comparable to combining Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn into one site specifically for businesses. Invoicing is only part of the conversation, according to CEO Christian Lanng.

Lanng shared with TheStreet how small-business owners can benefit from joining a business-specific social network such as Tradeshift and how electronic invoicing will improve efficiency.

How does Tradeshift connect businesses to customers and suppliers?

Lanng: Business is not only about the numbers -- it is also about the connections. Tradeshift helps to create more valuable connections by allowing you to listen to the conversation going on in your network and to communicate to all your suppliers or customers. Tradeshift users can broadcast messages to all suppliers and customers in their network, exchange private messages and see real-time updates on their invoices and payments. More than this, they can stay connected through other interactions, such as recommendations and activity streams.

How can Tradeshift improve small business' processes?

Lanng: Small businesses spend a significant amount of time creating, filing, sending and then waiting. E-invoicing makes businesses more efficient by retrieving money more quickly from customers and by reducing the amount of time wasted while invoices are in the mail. By connecting businesses electronically, Tradeshift helps them save time and ensure they get paid faster at both ends of the supply chain.

What are some common invoicing mistakes made by businesses?

Lanng: Companies large and small can encounter invoicing problems because their processes leave room for human error. From lost or slow paper invoices in the mail to forgetting to invoice altogether, businesses will see delayed payment when these issues occur. A common mistake is to accidentally re-use an invoice number, which is more problematic than it may sound. Without a system to prevent duplicates, businesses risk wasting time and money trying to undo the confusion this can create.

How are you able to offer this for free? Surely businesses pay for some part of the service?

Lanng: Tradeshift will always remain free for core services like invoicing because we want to make e-invoicing available for all businesses. We have a range of value-added applications for small business and enterprise that we are charging for now and in the future. Non-Tradeshift users can send electronic invoices to Tradeshift users. Our goal is open interoperable standards for exchange of business documents everywhere.

How does the transition work?

Lanng: Small businesses sign up for the service, create a profile, add their contacts to grow their network and start exchanging invoicing and documents. If they aren't on Tradeshift, they can send PDF invoices from Tradeshift. For large businesses, we help with onboarding their suppliers via a campaign management tool.

Why is social networking the future of invoicing?

Lanng: Every business big or small needs to receive and send payments. Businesses are tied together by this important transaction, and thus have more reason to stay in the network. By grouping businesses of all sizes in one location, Tradeshift is making it possible for people to add and invite business partners to join their network just as easily as they do on other social networks. We believe business is by definition social -- you meet, you interact and you trade.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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