If you Google the phrase “social business” you’ll get a variety of results returned. One of the first and perhaps oldest is a Wikipedia entry, which describes “social business” as “a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective within the highly regulated marketplace of today.”
The Wikipedia entry states the following: This article is about a business with a social objective. For organization designed around social tools, social media, and social networks, see Social media. The number one position (at least on my search) serves up a web page from IBM, which describes social business by saying, “People don’t do business with companies. People do business with people. Here is why―and how—to become a Social Business.”
While both are correct, the definition that IBM outlines reflects not just the idea, the theory of social business, but the practical application that we are seeing in the marketing place today. What Yunus envisioned, IBM has put a structure and focus around and broadened to include doing business in a connected age. In light of this, here are a few considerations for how “social business” might break down for you and why it’s related to social media, but not the same.
- Social Brand + Social Enterprise = Social Business
- Believe In Life After Likes
- Think Beyond Media
- Get Social By Design
- Learn To Become A Matchmaker
Remember this simple formula. A social brand is what your customer feels (perhaps being engaged on social platforms as part of the customer experience), while a social enterprise internalizes social as part of the way employees collaborate and how the business interacts with partners. The two, add up to doing business in a social and connected way. It means being plugged in from the start and incorporating feedback loops. In this regard, many businesses that run forums where they listen and engage with their most active customers already understand the foundation of social business.
Social business is bigger than Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and (insert social network here) combined. It’s about applying a social layer across the entire organization—connecting a company to all of its stakeholders (customers, employees, business partners, shareholders, etc). What we’ve seen in the past few years was an explosion of social across mostly marketing and communications departments, but what’s coming in the next several years is social integration at the enterprise level. A great starting point to assess if your company is moving in the right direction is to count the heads of the people working on social integration initiatives full time. If you don’t get past counting to one, you’re in trouble.
There are opportunities to leverage social media as a new way to spread a message, be heard, tell a story or get a story amplified. The media industry has, notably, been disrupted by social media as blogs and real-time communications have gained traction among audiences and eaten away at attention newspapers, radio and television news properties once exclusively served. In response, media companies were forced to integrate social media into their operations, empowering journalists early on to create their own blogs, and over time to become deeply integrated into social networking platforms. This was not a mere media tactic, but a shift in how media companies functioned and conducted business. Born out of necessity or not, the media industry showed how to become a more social business.
Social media projects are typically constructed of experiments, skunk works and unsanctioned projects, which launch and take shape before most people across a company even realize they are happening. Some of these experiments are successful; many are not—but organizations find out after the fact that there is something powerful happening within their audience. Social business benefits from a more thoughtful and disciplined approach. Social business requires planning—taking stock of every social-digital embassy, property and initiative (both internal and external) and assessing what should stay, what needs formal investments and what goes to the chopping block. The entire business strategy for an organization must be considered through this lens of social business. This “design” process—an intentional and purposeful approach—allows for social media, and truly social thinking, to be integrated and scaled.
Nobody owns “social business” — – but everyone feels its influence. Social business planning must be championed by leadership, built into the efforts to flatten management structures and bridge the gaps between organizational silos. The CMO and CIO must join forces, and invite the heads of HR, R&D and customer service to be a part of the same conversation. Social business change agents must also become matchmakers, because getting a video to go viral will seem easy in comparison to getting people in different departments to come together around social.
Remember that Google search result I mentioned a few paragraphs back? The number three result for social business links to an article from Fast Company titled “Move Over Social Media, Here Comes Social Business”. Its prime search rank is proof that social extends beyond marketing and media. When Microsoft decided to open their SDK (Software Developer Kit) for Kinect to developer communities, they made a calculated decision that value would flow back to the company as it simultaneously benefits developers. Even organizations such as NASA have reaped rewards from the decision to be a social business. This is a sign that in being a social or connected business—the end goal is value for multiple stakeholders, and for both business (and society) that’s a good thing.
*Microsoft is an Edelman client