I don’t like to argue definitions. It’s a waste of time. What really matters is the discussion around organizational challenges and potential solutions to complex business problems. My clients never come to me and say, “Hey Brito, how do you define social business?” And it’ll never happen that way either.
Some organizational challenges that I have personally experienced first hand when I worked for the enterprise were situations where employees were using social media inappropriately or the lack of collaboration within the organization resulting in disjointed communities, content and community management practices. These are some of the challenges of enterprise social media.
So as much as I dislike definitions, this is the appropriate place to insert one.
What is social business?
Social business is the blueprint for the transformation of an organization—bridging the external with internal, resulting in a more connected way of doing business and shared value for all stakeholders.
Keyword here – shared value for all stakeholders.
As much as a social business model can help solve a multitude of business challenges, it must also provide shared value for the entire organizations. The following social business model was created to illustrate this point:
(1) Certainly there is business value when customers and partners purchase your products or services. An increase in sales, revenue and market share are good for business. There is also value when they indirectly sell your products through customer advocacy. And lastly, customers love to give feedback, even when it doesn’t always make business sense.
So, here we have a one-way value exchange (customer to brand). If your company makes good products or services and customers are buying from you, there is value obviously.
(2) In order to complete the value exchange externally, brands must build engagement with their customers. Several studies and research reports support this and it’s also an intuitive way of acting just as it is with any relationship. Brands do this by providing meaningful content, either by solving specific customer issues, helping customers make smarter purchase decisions and even just saying thank you.
The two-way value exchange is completed when there is an authentic conversation happening between a brand and its customers. This is what’s referred to as a social brand. Most companies are social brands. They are using social media technology to build community and add value to the overall conversation. Some brands certainly do it better than others.
The real benefit of a social business, however, is that it can drive value internally. And, if done right, it can enable better marketing, better customer relationships, employee innovation, employee advocacy and much more.
(3) Usually a Social Business Center of Excellence will be responsible for driving the execution of internal social business initiatives. In this case, they will deliver value to employees and partners in the supply chain (and marketing/support teams) by building collaborative workflows and processes that will result in knowledge sharing; and social enablement i.e. equipping teams with training, best practices, technology that will allow them to better communicate both internally and externally.
This completes one half of the internal value chain, which is focused on employee and partner enablement.
(4) In return, and the natural result of enablement and empowerment, are the great ideas that are sparked by employee and partner collaboration. Whether it’s improving or revamping a new process or product innovation (Amazon Prime was an employee idea), there is value delivered back to the organization. Employees are more productive, morale is improved and workplace happiness will reign.
Lastly, when employees are enabled to engage externally with customers, there is conversation value since “employees of a company” are seen as trusted and credible sources (via Edelman Trust Barometer).
A social business not only solves complex business problems. It can also deliver maximum business value to the entire stakeholder ecosystem.
Note: This post was originally written on July 23, 2012.
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