In response to my post defining social selling, I realized that I needed to take a step back and define “What is a social business?”
There is a lot of talk about the social business and too often it involves a discussion of social tools and channels. In this article I’ll offer my own definition as well as plenty of links to other resources you can check out for more ideas on how to help your organization transform into a social business.
A social business is not a business that sends a lot of Tweets or has a ton of Facebook likes. A social business is one that realizes that it operates in a more transparent and social world. And so it makes customers and employees equally as important as its shareholders and profits.
What is a Social Business?
A social business places equal value on the needs of its customers, employees, partners and shareholders.
This is not all that different from the concept behind one of the first posts I wrote 3 years ago this month. In that post, I talked about a book called “The Service Profit Chain” that inspired a lot of my early professional thoughts on marketing strategy.
The basic theory presented in the book was that happier employees generate more customers who create more profit for the business. Makes sense, right? Yet in the race to quarterly profits, many businesses still struggle with the concept.
More recently I talked about the many reasons why social business is important and I presented my own roadmap to become a social business including the need to define a social strategy that empowers social employees, activates effective content strategy and addresses the issue of culture.
Peter Kim from the Dachis Group offers his own definition of the Social Business as well as a Social Business Design. He identifies “culture, connections, participation and analytics” as the main drivers of an effective social business.
Charlene Li from Altimeter Group recently presented on the Evolution of Social Business and talked about the 6 stages of transformation: “Planning, Presence, Engagement, Formalized, Strategic, and Converged.” They surveyed a large swath of companies and found a small minority (28%) have achieved any level of social business maturity.
And then there’s my friend Jeremiah Owyang who not only nailed how to bring content strategy into the social business but also defined the next phase of social business as “the collaborative economy” which he defines as “where brands will rent, lend, provide subscriptions to products and services to customers, or even further, allow customers to lend, trade, or gift branded products or services to each other.”
Edelman’s Michael Brito writes that “social business is not about communication. It’s not about technology or Enterprise 2.0. It’s about change management. I believe this to my core.” And I think he’s absolutely right.
But what is the role of the Marketing leader in this emerging social business and collaborative economy?
In my view, marketing is uniquely positioned to lead this transformation. As more employees become socially active brand ambassadors and build their personal brand, marketing can act as the shepherd guiding the flock with good old fashioned marketing communications techniques that put the customer first, that are aligned to the business strategy and that deliver business outcomes.