If you’ve been following the social media marketing space/blogosphere over the last year or so, you’ve probably heard increasing chatter about the concept of ‘Social Business’.
So what IS a Social Business? Good question, and it seems one that not even the people chattering about it can agree upon. For example, The Wikipedia definition states “social business is a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective within the highly regulated marketplace of today. It is distinct from a non-profit because the business should seek to generate a modest profit but this will be used to expand the company’s reach, improve the product or service or in other ways to subsidise the social mission.”
Ok…but here’s how @Armano describes it “At it’s core, it’s about connecting stakeholders who are critical to the success of your business. And as I’ve stressed before—it’s about executing initiatives leveraging the “3 P’s”—People, Process & Platforms.” David also has a nifty drawing that helps explain the process at that link.
And here’s Augie Ray’s definition: “A new form of commerce where consumers, empowered by new social technologies and behaviors, bypass traditional channels and acquire more information, goods and services directly from each other.”
Finally, here’s how the Social Business Forum defines a Social Business: “An organization that has put in place the strategies, technologies and processes to systematically engage all the individuals of its ecosystem (employees, customers, partners, suppliers) to maximize the co-created value”
Three things I see from the above and other various definitions I’ve found for the term ‘Social Business’:
1 – We can’t even agree on the definition of the concept. Which is no biggie, most of us can’t agree on the definition of ‘Social Media’ and it’s been around for 25 years in some form or another.
2 – The name ‘Social Business’ is terrible in that it immediately makes you think ‘Oh I get it, a business that does social media!’ Seriously, we marketers and business types put the ‘social’ modifier on waaaaay too many things.
3 – These definitions (and much of the discussion around the concept) seem to be focused on the companies that ‘get it’ when it comes to…whatever your definition of a ‘social business’ is. If you’re a business that doesn’t ‘get it’, is talking about how becoming a social business will help you ‘engage with and empower your customers to increase co-created value’ REALLY going to get you excited? I mean companies have been hearing about the potential of empowering and embracing their customers for at least 5 years now when we all got on a kick about how amazing social media is. Right? If that talk didn’t blow their skirts up, changing the name from ‘social media’ to ‘social business’ and trying again probably won’t either.
BTW here’s another interesting tidbit, the Wikipedia definition of the term ‘Enterprise 2.0‘: Enterprise 2.0 is the use of “Web 2.0” technologies within an organization to enable or streamline business processes while enhancing collaboration – connecting people through the use of social-media tools. Enterprise 2.0 aims to help employees, customers and suppliers collaborate, share, and organize information. Andrew McAfee describes Enterprise 2.0 as “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers”.
Ah we marketers do love to mark our territory by slapping labels on everything, don’t we?
But perhaps the biggest problem I have with most of the discussion around the concept of a ‘Social Business’ is that it seemed to be geared toward selling companies on the concept, versus the actual business benefits of integrating/embracing the concept.
Last month when I spoke at Bazaarvoice, I got to spend some time talking to CMO Erin Nelson and I learned more about BV’s offerings and how the companies is helping its clients. In general, Bazaarvoice is creating products and systems that let clients get more detailed and relevant (read: valuable) product information and feedback, and then helping them ACT on that feedback, both internally and externally, in order to improve existing business processes.
A very simple example: Erin noted that LL Bean tracked the reviews customers were leaving on their site for a popular sweater, and they noted that customers were asking for it to be produced in the colors green and purple. So LL Bean started offering the sweater in those colors as well, and sales doubled as a result. And the great thing about getting and ACTING on customer feedback is that it only encourages your customers to leave MORE feedback, which increases the chance that you can continue to improve existing business functions as a result.
That one small example to me does more to explain the possible reason why a company would want to become more connected internally and externally because it details a real-world business benefit from doing so.
As a result, I think those of us that are talking about the concept of a ‘Social Business’ need to stop talking about it as if we are selling a concept/product, and start talking about it as if we are selling the BENEFITS of being a Social Business. Because that’s what you SHOULD be doing, and besides, that’s a far more interesting conversation to be having anyway.