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Social Business Is Not About Technology!

by David Brock on February 25th, 2013

It’s hard not to be drawn into a conversation about Social Business.  Everyone seems to be talking about it.  Usually, one to two sentences into the conversation the focus is on, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Piinterest, LinkedIn, how many followers, how do generate likes, and on and on and on…….

We also seem to think social business is “new.”  I think it’s because whenever we talk about social business, it seems to be so closely intertwined with technology and social media.  But social business has been with us virtually since there has been commerce and trade.

The problem is Social Business is really not about technology.  Social business is more about a “frame of mind.”  It’s about the most basic principles of how we work.  Social business is really about people (but I guess the term People Business isn’t sexy enough).  To be “social in business” means that we focus on people.  Within our companies, being social mandates shared accountability, collaboration, shared values, co-creation.  This is not about technology, but how we hold our colleagues and how we work together.  Social businesses are open and transparent.

In social businesses, leaders set the example.  They are open about their goals, visions, priorities, and objectives.  They create and constantly reinforce the culture of accountability, collaboration, and co-creation.  They share information–up and down the food chain, across the organization.  Communication across the organization and across functional boundaries is the norm.  In social businesses, leaders make results visible.  Metrics are important because they reflect how the organization is executing.  But metrics are not used as weapons, but rather as means to keep the organization on target, to assure that we are meeting our goals, and continuously improving.

Social business is about learning.  It’s about listening and innovating.

Social business is about customers.  It’s hard to imagine being a social business without at the same time being intensely customer centric.  The principles of collaboration, co-creation, shared values, openness, and accountability do not stop at the company door, but extend to the way social businesses hold their customers, suppliers, shareholders and communities.   Social businesses recognize they don’t exist in isolation–but are active participants in a wider community.

Social business is people business.  It’s good business, it’s common sense.  It’s not new, we can look at great businesses, large and small, through history that have “social” as a core element of their organizational DNA.

Social business is not about size–every business from a sole proprietorship, to the local store, to the mid sized business, to a multinational can be a social business.  We can recognize them when we see and experience them.  Those are the businesses that we go back to and buy, because what’s important to them is what’s also important to us.

Now imagine how technology can support and magnify the impact of businesses that are truly “social.”  Technology enables social businesses to broaden and enrich the relationships and reach it has with its employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, and community.  Technology enables social businesses to accelerate the rate at which they share, collaborate, innovate, and grow–magnifying the impact both for them and their communities.

In fact, social businesses hold social technologies differently.  It’s a tool, and enabler, and accelerator.  It’s part of extending their reach, impact and effectiveness.  Small social businesses now expand their reach, impact, and visibility.  Social businesses don’t debate being leveraging the technology, increasing their reach and visibility, it’s already part of their DNA.  Social businesses don’t focus on likes, followers, they realize that’s earned by the way the conduct business.

Is your business social?  Or does it just leverage social technologies?  The difference is profound!

(My thanks to Vala Afshar, @valafshar, CMO and CSO for Enterasys–a great social business.   Vala and I had a wonderful conversation about being social.  I was fortunate to have recorded it and will publish it as podcast in the next few days.  To learn more about Social Business than I’ve expressed here, be sure to order the book, The Pursuit Of Social Business Excellence, by Vala Afshar and Brad Martin.)

 

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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