Social Business Is for Grown-ups

By | September 27, 2012

Forget social media. What we’re talking about now is “social business.”

It’s a term that results from mixing social media with business objectives .. and it’s spreading within large companies.

Three components comprise social business: social media, the cloud, and team collaboration.

1. Social Media.
Writing in his August 24 article in InformationWeek’s “the barnyard,” Dion Hinchcliffe noted that — in order to significantly displace the old — new, and additional social channels for engaging with customers, suppliers, partners, and workers must be more efficient and productive than the old ways — which means: strategy first, validated by experiments.

Who will lead all of this? As the latest McKinsey research points out, there is now $900 million to $1.3 trillion at stake annually. Rest assured that social business has moved out of the intern’s office and into the C-suite of large companies, where CEOs, CMOs, and CIOs are salivating over social.

2. The Cloud [aka “Silo Bombing”]
Big Biz is moving to manage people-centric processes [e.g. hiring, training, management, compensation] into the clouds.

As Hinchcliffe points out, marketing has long been engaged in social media, customer service has been ramping up the social media efforts, and collaborative teams have long been working via in-house social intranets. The rest of the organization? Not so much. But that’s changing.

Many larger companies are developing a cross-enterprise strategy to dump old communication channels — aka “silos” — in favor of new “social” ones. That means free exchange, authenticity, true information access, and loss of control for many departmental managers.

3. Team Collaboration
Over the next five years, Hinchliffe sees email, mass media, telephone, and “other 20th century channels” growing stale, with new collaborative social team systems emerging.

We’ve all got a new partner now — or is it a master? No matter. Technology will most certainly help us redefine “possible.” The C-Suite job now is to grow-up to the achievable.

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4 thoughts on “Social Business Is for Grown-ups

  1. Gee Ranasinha (@KEXINO)

    I think that the most interesting development of the concept of a “Social Business” is the recognition and extension of an organization’s ecosystem that recognizes and includes customers, partners and suppliers.

    The historical separation between what goes on inside a company, and what goes on outside, is disappearing. The issue with many companies implementing next-generation stakeholder value initiatives such as social media is that they’re bolting them onto tired, outdated (and increasingly irrelevant) marketing/sales/service methodologies that have remained pretty much unchanged for the past 50 years. And that’s the very reason why they’ll fail.

    I wrote an article about this recently, If you’re interested, you can find it at:

  2. Nancy Scott

    Hi, Gee… Your article is truly excellent and I recommend it to everyone.. Thank you so much! I think you explained “social business” perfectly when writing, “Forget the channels – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, whatever. These are just the instruments. The true – and far bigger – opportunity is conversing, listening and connecting with customers (both new and existing) in realtime … For a social brand to transition to a social business, we’re talking about a fundamental shift in the very make-up of the company. It’s about businesses taking their trusted, carefully-nurtured audiences and involving them at some level to shape the nature of the firm … [Customers] want to be part of what you’re building, and they’ll reward you with their insight, opinion – and devotion.” I totally get what you’re saying because you’ve said it so well. For now, unfortunately, to most companies, “social business” looks more conceptual than real. Do you know of any in-depth case study that describes HOW a company has involved customers at levels product/service? If — as you say in your article — “[customers want] recognition, information, direction, resolution, commitment. They want value. They want to be part of what you’re building, and they’ll reward you with their insight, opinion – and devotion.” — HOW do companies actually open the conversation to those customers? Do any companies really DO that? The point came alive to me via the “Apple” example in your article, since I have been profoundly disturbed to see Apple’s corporate culture — once so protective of and devoted to its loyal computer users — seem to change before my eyes into just another profit-driven company. I mean, if Apple doesn’t “care,” who does? I’d love to hear your reaction….

  3. Gee Ranasinha (@KEXINO)

    Hi Nancy,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    To answer your first question: My company is currently working with 2 clients who have embraced the concept of what a “Social Business” could mean to both themselves as well as their stakeholders. It’s still early days, and there’s already been a number of bumps in the road (!), but in both cases the will to adapt and refine is strong. I’ll keep you posted!

    Without wanting to have this degenerate into a critique of any particular company, I hear what you’re saying about Apple. However, in my opinion Apple have never been a social company: their focus has been on the creation of user-centric software experiences, married with innovative industrial design and manufacturing technology from a hardware standpoint. Their fanatical user following is more to do with Apple’s unrivaled management (if not “control”) of the buying experience – from product placement in movies, to the Apple Retail Stores, the Genius Bars, AppleCare support, and so on. Apple creates an aspirational environment that resonates.

    Most organizations today need to realign their own perceived business value, since customers are increasingly looking for more adaptive companies, measured by their ability to steer and shape positive customer experiences before, during and after the transaction. While many would agree that the creation of a social BRAND is something that can no longer be ignored today, the creation of a social BUSINESS can be seen as an investment in maintaining relevance in customers’ minds for the future.

  4. Nancy Scott

    Thanks for writing back, Gee. I agree that Apple has never been a social company. In truth, I’m not sure that ANY company has achieved “social business” status in the sense you are describing (yet). I also agree that Apple has “managed” its tremendous growth via a savvy control of manufacturing and marketing. Still, back in the early days (1984 -?), Mac computer users demonstrated an enviable degree of devotion and brand advocacy. In that sense, via the many Mac-users groups, developers outside the company advocated for and were involved in the computer’s evolution. Any pretense to that “customer-involvement culture” started its decline when the iPod began to dominate corporate energy leading up to its release in 2001. Indeed, Apple is an interesting case study, isn’t it? In talking about “social business,” I sense you are envisioning a shift in corporate attitudes that could put employees and customers in a partnership with company owners and stockholders. We can only hope. 🙂

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