What has always interested me about social is its ability to democratize the relationship between a company and its customers. Social media provides the everyday consumer with easy touch points to the brands and businesses – some of them major corporations with thousands of employees – they love, while giving organizations the opportunity to create meaningful relationships with their most loyal advocates.
That is exciting to me, because it means that social has the potential to create mutually beneficial relationships on a macro and micro level. Obviously this has marketing and sales implications, but smart businesses are now realizing that social can do so much more than good customer relations. At Edelman, we believe social can provide shared value across an organization, which is why we’ve broadened social business planning for our clients to include all stakeholder groups.
Socially Beneficial at its Core
I think SideraWorks does a great job of capturing this evolution by describing “Social Business” as bringing to life an organization that “is optimized to benefit its entire ecosystem.” This means Social Business in and of itself should provide a positive societal benefit: happier customers, employees and other stakeholders.
Happier employees is an especially critical outcome, given how an organization treats its employees is critical to its overall trustworthiness. “Enterprise 2.0” has become a hot topic lately because of the focus on how tools are providing new opportunities for collaboration and information sharing, but let’s not forget the most important organizational benefit Enterprise 2.0 can provide: closer connections between a company and its workforce; between a leader and his or her employees. This balance between internal and external advocacy is the hallmark of a truly social business.
Today most businesses still focus on operational concerns, such as increasing financial returns, as the core of their business identity. Edelman’s 2012 Trust Barometer however found that tomorrow’s trust is built on societal performance: the treatment of employees, putting customers ahead of profits, and investments in the environment, society and local communities. This was reinforced recently in the 2012 goodpurpose study, which showed that consumers are increasingly demanding that companies place equal emphasis on social interests as on business interests.
Social Business provides a natural conduit for creating this kind of environment, because at its core it is about creating a more responsive and engaging culture. Companies can take a tangible step towards earning a “license to lead” when leadership commits to optimizing an organization’s ecosystem to benefit all stakeholders – just as easily, if not more so, than when it commits to a one-time cause-related marketing stunt.
Social Business to Betterness
In Umair Haque’s recent manifesto, Betterness: Economics for Humans, he makes a case for a new economic paradigm to define how we think about life and work; that we need to overhaul “the future of human exchange” to be more than about getting a little more profit. My love affair with social began with the idea that socially active companies are socially beneficial companies because they remove the friction between themselves and their stakeholders. But maybe it’s much more than that. If Haque is right, and we do need to rethink our economic paradigms, maybe creating businesses optimized to do much more than make a profit is a way to get to a form of “betterness.” And that makes Social Business even more important.
What do you think? Do social businesses naturally create societal benefits? Should they?
Image credit: joo0ey