Social business? It’s just plain business

Buzz around ‘social business’ has gone crazy in recent months, but having spoken to brands about it for some time now, I’m convinced we’re confusing the hell out of them.

We whack ‘social’ on terms to connote something cool, new and 21st century, but the reality is it’s just plain old business – i.e. finding ways to do things faster, better and cheaper. The significance of social media in the rush for ‘enterprise 2.0’ prowess is that it’s pushing – you could say forcing – brands to change.

Firstly, social media gives anyone with an internet connection a platform from which they can share what they care about with the world. There’s good news for companies (recommendations, referrals) and bad news (crappy experiences). The upshot of this is YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO BECOME A BETTER COMPANY.

Secondly, social media has changed cultural expectations. Customers want real time, 24-7, always-on responsiveness. Networked competitors have the tools they need to sneak up behind you and steal your lunch. This accelerating pace means companies need to find ways to innovate faster, just to stay in the game.

For all the focus on new technologies, when it comes to ‘social business’ / ‘enterprise 2.0’, technology is the easy bit. Technology evolves almost by itself, whereas people and companies take a seriously long time to change.

That’s why failure to integrate technology into existing workflows is a top cause of failure. To avoid a costly technology tumbleweed situation, you can’t expect your people to use systems just because they should – because it’s the new way. Rather you need to ensure the technology supports existing goals and actually enables them to get their jobs done in a more efficient way. Ignoring workflow integration and failing to have an employee engagement strategy around your tools is the classic social error.

Starting by asking yourself ‘what is this person/team actually trying to get done here?’

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