Social business: dead, alive and kicking, or business as usual?

For the past few years, ‘social business’ has gotten a lot of attention from a number of people. Very enthousiastic people. For various reasons, not everyone shared their enthousiasm. Social business has been declared dead a couple of times, probably because the innovators’ initiative didn’t seem to get a lot of tangible results very soon.

social business concept

A few recent articles point out different aspects – and views – of the drive towards social business.

What problem has social business tried to fix?

Chris Heuer writes, on Brian Solis’ blog: “With so much pain from past failures holding us down, we no longer feel the weight on our backs of how broken our organizations have become.” Using social media to force change upon organizational structures that have failed the people inside them?

I would say we’re probably at a stage where organizations that were able to change at some pace, have changed. The others have tried to incorporate social media into their way of doing business without tearing their own walls down. Some have failed. Others are slowed down simply because not every employee who has adopted social media, has been eager to use social media for business purposes.

Social business culture?

On Pivotcon.com I found this remark: “The question executives now have to ask themselves is, “Who’s talking to the customers?” Gartner recently estimated that 80 percent of all social initiatives over the next three years will either produce underwhelming results or fail completely.” Why is that?

  • A lack of clear objectives is mentioned. Hang on though – isn’t that one of the reasons for new businesses to fail, too?
  • Social executives are deemed necessary for a culture to change. “A social business company culture starts inside a company, not between the company and its customers.”

Once you have a rudimentary ‘social’ culture in your company, what’s next? It’s who actually takes care of social media.

Social business: marketing only?

An article on Social Media Explorer asks whether ‘social’ is in the right hands – in most cases, those hands belong to a marketing team. But social business isn’t about telling or even showing people how good you or your products are (although good content is appreciated). According to the author, social media is about social relationships. Social relationships, whether online or off, are – to a great extent – about helping each other in some way. If your content isn’t helpful, it’s useless in most ways (even though ‘pretty’ content can be useful).

Customer service is the department most likely to help anyone. However, that means customer service should evolve from ‘deal with annoying complaints team’ to ‘customer retention office’ (my interpretation). It should be closer to marketing, providing much-needed feedback on how customers fare after making a purchase. I wrote a post on turning a business social ‘back to front’ some time ago.

Social business: boosting productivity?

In a reaction to Chris Heuer’s article, Stowe Boyd states that “C-level executives hope to gain another round of productivity from new technologies and practices that are grouped under the loose rubric of ‘social’.”

Productivity won’t be coming from making employees work harder. It might come from social business. Because a number of executives have realized that existing rules and ties within organizations make them slow to learn – and that is a definite weakness.

Rethinking organizations: social business as a way into the future

Apart from misplaced romantic notions (‘optimism’) on the part of early change ambassadors, it is now obvious even to a number of C-level executives that change will take things over at some point – and you can bet they’ll want to steer away from the ‘change through bankruptcy’ scenario. This may not lead to social business the way the innovators intended. But ‘business as usual’ has definitely changed.

Your average CEO, CFO, CMO, CIO… isn’t necessarily eager for change by the bucketload. But they are definitely interested in staying in business. That may mean serious pruning, chopping back and digging over of their overgrown rose garden. If you get any warning at all of what is about to happen before it hits you, that counts as a bonus.

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