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Question: What is your understanding of the term "Social Business?"

1) A company fully integrating "social" internally and externally.
2) A company (for profit) designed to address a social objective.
3) Or both? Or?

I like to use the term "social business" predominantly with definition #1 per what IBM is doing - see more on this below.

However, "social business" was first defined by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Prof. +Muhammad Yunus to mean #2. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_business

[Update: and see also http://www.socialbusiness.org/]

To me, a social business is a company that is fully integrating social networking and relationship building both internally and externally. It's a company that GETS what it means to be social and is not afraid to embrace open communication among employees, management, vendors and customers. Social businesses are more successful at external social media marketing because of their internal cohesiveness and connections between all employees.

More and more, we're hearing about "social media" evolving into "social business". It's not a standalone component of marketing. Companies like +IBM are leading the way with their training, initiatives and this explanatory section on their website: http://ibm.com/socialbusiness. I like IBM's definition of social business - excerpted from their site:

A social business isn't just a company that has a Facebook page and a Twitter handle. A social business is one that embraces and cultivates a spirit of collaboration and community throughout its organization—both internally and externally.
IBM has identified three distinct characteristics of a social business:
Engaged —deeply connecting people, including customers, employees, and partners, to be involved in productive, efficient ways.
Transparent —removing boundaries to information, experts and assets, helping people align every action to drive business results.
Nimble —speeding up business with information and insight to anticipate and address evolving opportunities.

Your thoughts?

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38 comments
 
The term could mean #1; it could mean number #2 without any relationship to #1. And it could mean both at the same time. Depends on context.
 
Knowing & following +Muhammad Yunus' work for quite some time, It's #2. I was quite surprised when I saw posts here some time ago explaining social business as #1, even if that's part of my job...
 
I think IBM hit the nail on the head with "A social business is one that embraces and cultivates a spirit of collaboration and community throughout its organization—both internally and externally".

When I think "Social Business", I think of a business being friendly, approachable, and a company I would like to interact with. Exactly what I look for in my social engagements with people.

So for me, it's #1.
 
+IBM knows their stuff when it comes to social business. In fact, they are leading the pack in defining it. My observation is that they are excellent at the "internal" and are catching up on the "external" part.

They've taken product differentiation to a whole new level and are selling conceptual differentiation. Kudos.
 
Thanks, +Glenn Gow - I tend to agree! I'm loving the leadership +IBM is showing in (re)defining this term... even though they are not the first name we all think of as a highly (externally) social company, such as +Starbucks Coffee or many of the airlines like +Southwest Airlines or +Virgin.
 
Hi +Didier J. MARY - thanks for your input! That's cool you're familiar with +Muhammad Yunus' work. My guess is though the term "social business" has been around for some time and is/was defined by Muhammad, it's possible the term is becoming more mainstream now and is somewhat coincidental that the term was already in use. In other words, it's quite feasible that both definitions exist and over time companies may adopt the term and approach to mean a combination of both #1 and #2.
 
IBM has a solid definition and a strong practice. But I prefer a wider description: A social business is one that embraces networked people and networked information as a means to invent and/or redefine core business processes.
 
By the way folks, here is a whole site dedicated to Social Business http://www.socialbusiness.org -- I just updated my post with it, I meant to include it earlier. From their site:

What is a Social Business? - A social business is a company that is dedicated to solving a social issue. The company strives to make profit, although all of the profits are re-invested to further the social benefit.

Social Business Principles:
1. Purpose is to solve a social issue; eradicate it. Social issues are those that relate to poverty, health, education and human rights.
2. Using business principles to create a sustainable business model.
3. Attract the best people and make it a great place to work.
4. Do all of this while making the world a better place.
 
Thanks, +Mari Smith! You raise a great point about the overlapping definition with socially responsible and/or focused businesses.

We need a new term for one of the other ... though I imagine some entrepreneurs out there are already building organizations that would fit under both.
 
Thanks +Jeff Jockisch. +Mari Smith, I'm so glad to see you digging into this topic. Seems that some people are using "social business" and other are using "social enterprise".

You may have seen last September when +Marc Benioff led Salesforce.com on a powerful push towards the "social enterprise" at their DreamForce conference.
http://www.salesforce.com/company/news-press/press-releases/2011/08/110831.jsp

As inspiring as that was, I was a bit dismayed that Marc was using the pre-existing term "social enterprise" to describe what they are working on, and I think it's added to the growing confusion between these two uses of the term.

The socialbusiness.org. site looks very interesting. Here are a couple of other good sites that you may already be familiar with:
www.bcorporation.net
www.socialedge.org

This is something I write about a bit, with a big focus on the idea of "organizational permeability" as a key attribute of the social business in the first sense you've outlined above.
 
Great points made in this thread so far. I'd like to add that a social business should also be defined as one that derives its revenues largely from its social media-focused activities. IBM has a social presence but it existed long before modern forms of social media and would exist fine without it. A true social business would seem to require social properties to survive.
 
I agree with you, Mari. The Top 100 Internet retailer I work for is looking to sell on social channels, but not the outdoorsy gear and apparel we're known for (at least not directly). Authenticity is our product. That's what the president ensures we know every single day!
 
Items to go with the IBM definition, and think that what Yunus started was a social venture, or social entrepreneurship with a trile bottom line. But the terms are definitely confusing, with one meaning "for social good" and the other meaning "with the social graph"
Ann Liu
 
But how to implement 'Social Business' in an organization that block its own people to access those social media websites? - FB, G+ and Twitter etc.
 
+Glenn Gow ,Agree, traditional software vendors like IBM only has something for 'internal'.
 
3) On my opinion it will be both in the Future. Now days those might be separate issues but in the future there will be higher demand for both aspects. If IBM says that people will do business with people not companies how we can separate local communities social needs who are same people who make The Business? Companies have to take deeper role like old days (-100 years)
 
The Triple Bottom Line (TBL: people, planet, profit ) is weaving its way into the corporate model. As this philosophy becomes more common and expected, businesses absent of a social conscious will be faced with big PR challenges. The younger generations want more than strong earnings and expect their employers to be both 1 & 2. Emerging leaders are starting ventures with both at the core of their mission. As a die hard hippy from the 60s and 70s, both are necessary IMO.
 
The work of church had been confused and prepared as the innovation for the other stages of the augmented human of senses, knowledge, spirituality and the social empowerment which support the vibrant and sound markets for the entrepreneurs' activities which should be balanced their ethical, principles and the best practice challenged and picked up the leaders but not measured financially ?
 
IBM is focussed on technology and operations, not on outlook or soft values. A business can adopt all the collaboration technology in the world, but if their core value offering and mission statements don't pivot to incorporate a human lens on their business then they will be excellent practitioners of social tactics in non-social business.
 
Social biz would be extended by the individual factors and measures than the 20C biz of the classic IBM, the institution would move to more liberalized and the networked based on the leading values into the culture and out of the knowledge and the new sports areas? individual(minds,spiritual,community,intended commons) than the institutions(regulatory, security, political issues)
 
+Peter du Toit Yes. There's a terrible confusion, which +Mari Smith is trying to get at the root of here, among the terms social media, social business, and social enterprise. Social business should refer to the triple bottom line ventures characterized by Yunus' movement. Social enterprise should refer to the awesome work being done by IBM. And social media is an enabling tool for any of them.
Or at least that's where I come down on it, after having many great discussions here on G+

And because there's so much discussion, I'm making the theme of this years Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference (AZEC12.com) "the end of business as usual" and talking about this. I think it's critical that we understand all this. I've already invited IBM to be represented.
 
+Francine Hardaway That sounds awesome and pretty much the way I see it too based on this and other discussions I have seen.

Looking forward to the evolving insights on this!
 
Question: Can a company truly be a "social business" without any social objective?
 
+Mari Smith I'd rather use 'social business' exclusively for #2. If we soon call every business 'social' for communicating a lot through social media channels - we have to invent a new name for those businesses who tackle ... uhm ... I'm already out of words ... 'social issues.'

Of course, it seems the world has already begun to use 'social business' in the new context of social media. So it's time to coin a new phrase for the 'original' meaning of social business.

I see the same happening with social influence. It was once a term tied to psychology, covering a broad range of influence aspects. With the rise of 'influence measurement tools' like +Klout it seems to get reduced to the ability to make people click and comment and share on social web sites.

The bigger picture here is that the word 'social' is increasingly tied to the specific form of interaction on so-called 'social sites.'

+Francine Hardaway Your conference theme 'the end of business as usual' reminds me of +Richard Branson's book title 'screw business as usual.'

I recommend this book to anybody interested in 'social business' according to definition #2 above. Richard has a lot of enthusiasm for and experience in 'social business' and that makes the book a great introduction to the topic.
http://virginunite.screwbusinessasusual.com

Quote: "Never has there been a more exciting time for all of us to explore this next great frontier where the boundaries between work and higher purpose are merging into one, where doing good really is good for business."
 
The term social "enterprise" has been gaining steam here. It refers specifically to a business model that supports a social good/community/unaddressed need as opposed to a social networking purpose. The terms could be interchangeable, but I prefer to think of social enterprise as #2.
 
For a business to embrace social media or be call social business need to integrate a sense of community and transparency, inside and out of the company. So, I say #1!...
 
I think you covered everything. I'd also add that building the relationships is a constant thing, and will always be an ongoing need, no matter what the objective.
 
Aha!! I just found this whole section on Facebook's site pertaining to its recent series of global Facebook Marketing Conferences - https://www.facebook.com/business/fmc/guides/blueprints. Facebook defines Social Business: A company that uses social media and social technology to improve core business processes like product development, market research, customer service, retail and merchandising.
 
Private ownership or public ownership in the social network which seemed to be underestimated the governmental roles though the participants had been acknowledge the regulations ?
 
Interesting to go back to this post and realize how much has changed since April:-) Social business has really evolved.
 
I agree with you +Francine Hardaway, before a lot of people didn't even have an idea of what to really answer to this question, but now after a short period of time this term is becoming more and more generic in the online business world. At least to marketers keeping up to date with social media, because offline business owners still don't even know how to use social media to improve their companies reach.

I always recommend +Mari Smith's books as a reference, but many don't have the time to learn the what it takes to use social mediums the right ways!
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