Monday, 25 March 2013

Social businesses

What is a social business? Wikipedia tells me that a social business was first defined by Prof Muhammad Yunus as a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective within the highly regulated marketplace of today. A wider definition includes any business having a social rather than financial objective. Or a social enterprise can be defined as a commercial activity by socially minded organizations. Perhaps a better definition these days is a business that has adopted social networking tools and practices for internal and external functions across their organization.

The IBM Web site tells us that: “Social business technologies help people connect, communicate, and share information. Becoming a leader in your marketplace means using social solutions to transform how business gets done – driving cost savings, increasing revenue, and cultivating competitive advantages.” That definitely sounds like a good thing.

In a report from Altimeter entitled The Evolution of Social Business: Six Stages of Social Business Transformation, it’s suggested that many social strategies are not linked to business goals, but are instead often driven by a “social for social’s sake” orientation. The report notes that, even when goals are aligned, social initiatives frequently must deal with a lack of defined strategy, governance, or funding. The report suggest six stages a company has to go through to become a social business:

  • Planning – understand how customers use social channels and prioritize strategic goals where social can have the most impact.
  • Presence – amplify existing marketing efforts and encourage sharing
  • Engagement – drive considerations to purchase and provide direct support with internal employee engagement.
  • Formalized – set governance for social, create discipline and process, and have strategic business goals.
  • Strategic – scale across business units and move into HR, sales, finance, and supply chain.
  • Converged – social drives transformation and integrates social philosophy into all aspects of the enterprise.
Becoming a social business is not something that can be left for tomorrow, organizations need to act now. They need to identify what it is they do well, and they need to get the message out there. And that last part comes with two health warnings! You need to be using the same social media as your clients and potential clients. If they don’t use the same media, they won’t see the message. Secondly, keep your eye on new media. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, Google plus may not always be kings of the heap. Pinterest is currently very popular. Watch out for trends – so you don’t lose that link with clients and potential clients. Maybe you should be looking at smartphone apps that will make it easy for people to come to you for whatever it is you supply.

Interestingly, there are products like Yammer (, which Microsoft bought last year, Chatter, and others, that offer private social networks for organizations.

IBM VPs Jeff Schick and Sandy Carter were on stage at IBM Connect 2013 showing off the capabilities in IBM’s social business platform. It seems that companies are combining social technologies, the cloud, mobile, and analytics to create a flexible, intelligent framework for making the most of social connections. In an IBM survey of CEOs, 57% picked social business as a top priority and nearly three quarters (73%) are making significant investments in analysing data.

According to Jeff Schick: “A disconnect between how we live our lives
through digital connections and sharing – and how we work isn’t sustainable. Particularly since the new generation of workers who will fill companies’ ranks don’t know any other way of interacting and working than social media. The rate of productivity, innovation, and employee retention will increasingly depend on who can master this coming age of social business.”

For an organization to just have a social media strategy isn’t enough. The organization must transform itself into a social business to ensure its continued success.

No comments: