We Are Social’s Social Business notes #1


Welcome to the first in a series of notes on social business by Marcus Hickman from our UK office. In this article he reviews the best social business thinking from around the web in November.

What is social business?

First off though, let’s try and define the term “social business”, especially when the term “social enterprise” has for quite a few years been used in relation to businesses that have a philanthropic mission as their primary goal rather than profit. Kathryn Corrick discusses this issue and reports on a recent IBM briefing where they had a go at defining social business:

They also discussed it’s impact on innovation, HR and IT. Earlier this month, David Armano had a go at answering the same question:

New research this month

Companies are failing on social media, claims new research from Ernst & Young, with 1 in 6 wanting to co-create products and services with their providers but only 15% thinking companies do a good job of interacting with them. McKinsey’s fifth annual survey on the way organisations use social tools and technologies has found they provide statistically significant correlations between performance metrics and business processes of the “networked enterprise”. Econsultancy’s “The State of Social” Report showed social media activity maturing but over half of the clients surveyed have not yet implemented social media training and governance policies.

Why it isn’t just about the marketing department

Oliver Blanchard eloquently points out there is a risk in coupling social media too strongly with the marketing department, potentially missing out on the wider benefits that it could bring to your organisation. Charlene Li popped in to see We Are Social’s Milan office a few days ago and had a few words to say on this:

Enabling open, collaborative organisations

A potential benefit of social technology is enabling the “social organisation” and its mass collaboration and this is something that Coca Cola have been looking to tap into by adding social elements to their internal engagement programme. This isn’t the only benefit beyond the marketing department as David Armano has discussed in his post on making better business decisions through (social) data, which sets out the uses of social data within program planning and content development.

Managing changes

Embedding these changes needs its own sort of consideration and John Bell has collated 10 key learnings from a recent panel he sat on discussing “operationalising” social media. One of their key take-aways was to “go back to basics: know your strategy” and although perhaps obvious it seems like many organisations don’t quite see that social should still fall under existing business objectives. It could be that many are getting caught up in providing technology and praying it will work and not taking the time to define its purpose. Perhaps this is similar to the difference between knee jerk reactions to what your competitors/customers are doing and strategically planning to become a social business.

Banning social, despite benefits

But maybe many would rather not see social media used for work related activities at all, with research from Reed employment suggesting a full 68% of UK organisations either ban or allow limited access to social platforms at work. This is comparable to the situation in the America where the University of Melbourne found that a full 73% of businesses either banned or allowed limited use. The same piece of research suggested those given full access to platforms at work were actually 9% more productive than those who were not, and two thirds of European respondents thought social networking made them more efficient. Even so, given that wayward updates could get your fired these days maybe they’re just protecting you from yourself.

The revolution is afoot

But the will of your business leader is small fry compared to the external revolution happening within your customers (and your employees). Dave Gray has been writing an amazing series of posts this month and when you have time i urge you to read them all but this paragraph nails it in one:

“To think that this customer revolution won’t affect your business is naive. It will affect every business. It is already shifting the balance of power. It will change the way power is controlled and exercised. It will change the way companies are organized and the way they do business.”

Simon discussed the change in organisational hierarchies this week in relation to the occupy movement, but if both of these are a bit too blue sky for you perhaps just considering a time beyond insane email chains will be enough.