What’s In a Social Business Strategy?

Posted on November 13, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

There’s a lot of talk about social this and social that these days.  That’s good.  The more we talk about it, the closer we get to a common language and a common framework for understanding what this is all about.

I’d like to propose a framework for Social Business.  This isn’t rocket science.  My interest is in drawing some of the many ideas we are discussion together into a language that is useful to my business colleagues.  This framework came from discussions with my colleague Dr. Jim McGee, and was somewhat inspired by the Dachis Group’s posting of their vision for Social Business Design last summer.

Social Business is the business model that brings together the tools, the people, the processes and the structures we see emerging with the proliferation of Web2.0.social business strategy

Building a Social Business Strategy means bringing together all of the business and technical components into one cohesive plan.  It’s the vision for how the enterprise will operate with the more permeable boundaries that come along with the web 2.o environment.  Specifically, a Social Business Strategy is a combination of:

  • Social media– those applications that support or promote the brand and interaction with customers for selling.
  • Social support– those applications that facilitate the customer experience after the sale, such as peer-to-peer communities, microblogging, search and listen applications.
  • Social networking– those applications that facilitate interaction between individuals, often used for talent management and knowledge management.
  • Social innovation– those applications that facilitate creating of new ideas within the corporation such as crowdsourcing and collective intelligence.
  • Social infrastructure– the technologies and people used to provide the foundation and networking necessary to make the applications work such as the architecture, the IT organization, the PR firm, the business analytics applications, and the monitoring tools.
  • Social liability– the legal, IP, and security issues that must be addressed for successful social business in the corporate environment.

When considering where to start, as always the discussion begins with the needs of the business.  The business strategy drives the social business strategy, but at the same time, the social business strategy enables and informs the business strategy.  In the future, these may be one in the same, but today, as companies try to sort through their social business strategy, it must be something that is complementary to the goals of the business.

However in the case of social business strategy, the needs of the business are made more complex by the fact that web 2.0 tools available enable individuals who are not part of the traditional corporate structure to create content that directly and significantly affects the company.  Witness how one individual created a storm for United Airlines, or where a group of individuals convinced Facebook to reverse a business decision.

Corporate executives seem to have a wait and see attitude.  They are waiting to make sure social business is not just some passing fad.  They are watching to see what the real opportunities are and what the ‘killer app’ will be.

However the window of opportunity is here now and the consequences of not building your social business strategy means that best case, the corporation is relegated to be a follower rather than a leader. But worst case may be that you can never catch up, and that could mean extinction.  Is it worth the risk?

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4 Responses to “What’s In a Social Business Strategy?”

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The list is I think partial but a good starting point for what I have been calling “social technologies” — the best summary I have heard though on this topic is Yochai Benkler speaking at TED. I won’t get this exactly right but he says something along the lines of —

Historically one of the largest expenses in business is the cost of collaboration and the largest input into that is the cost of communication. These technologies drop the cost of communication through the floor, dramatically changing what is possible when people work together.

Focusing on the technology is, I think, the wrong way round. These technologies emerge from the existing business process requirements that we have, — the reduction in the cost of communications made possible by the Internet changes what is possible within those processes, which then generates the requirements for new tools.

But the way to convince businesses to adopt them is to show how they merely facilitate the things we always intended to do in our businesses but had to find proxies for because of those costs.

Product development is a good example – why run surveys and focus groups? Because that is all we could afford. Now we can actually talk to the whole market about what they want…

You bring up a few really important points here, Ted. The transaction cost view you describe (the cost of communication decreases, so the cost of reaching the whole market is now reasonable) is a valid perspective. This is exactly why we are having these discussions now. I agree: the technologies have enabled us to do business differently.

However, the value of the options that these new technologies, and their corresponding low price-points, have enabled goes far beyond facilitating the things we have always done. The discontinuous change function we are experiencing with the social business model has enabled new things to do, not just new ways to do the old things. Thanks for helping me clarify that point!

[…] share some of our thinking about discussing social business with IT leaders and the components of a social business strategy.  Jim’s blog recently articulated our arguments for the hypothesis that “CIO represents the […]

[…] share some of our thinking about discussing social business with IT leaders and the components of a social business strategy. Jim’s blog recently articulated our arguments for the hypothesis that “CIO represents the best […]


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