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What Does It Really Mean to Be a Social Business?

  |  September 10, 2013   |  Comments

There's a huge difference between a business that uses social media and one that empowers social connections and makes them a fundamental part of operations.

Social media and social business are terms that are getting used a lot lately. But while one may enable the other, they're very different - and organizations that don't understand the distinction may be missing out on a huge opportunity to improve their business processes.

Debate Brewing

Social media continues to mature as both a channel and a market in its own right. It's even becoming an agent for social change. Technology made it possible for us to connect, and now social media has made it possible to do it in a more organic, human way. It's hard to believe, but Facebook and LinkedIn are each coming up on their 10th year, and Twitter is now six years old. Together, they've fundamentally changed how we engage with one another online. Millennials who grew up in a social world are entering the workforce. What happens next? Social business.

While the concept of a social business has been around for a few years, right now it's really gaining traction. But there's a huge difference between a business that uses social media and one that empowers social connections and makes them a fundamental part of operations. In other words, some companies tweet about their products - and that's it. Truly social businesses use social collaboration to change the way their employees and teams interact.

Not everyone agrees - the debate is brewing, and a number of papers, research reports, and books appear on the subject every day. I recently engaged in a discussion on the subject during a Twitter chat hosted by @PamMktgNut. Check out the #getrealchat transcript to read the whole conversation. I love the fact that we were using social media to discuss the topic, and that we got to hear 136 perspectives in a real-time discussion. The consensus was that social media is a marketing and communication channel, and social business is a philosophy that combines process, technology, and people to be successful. Of course, social media is a part of the greater concept of social business, since it helps an organization communicate with external constituents. But an intrinsically social company infuses social interaction into every part of their business operations.

The Social Business

The way I see it, a social business is a connected organization where the expertise of the individual is accessible by all through the ability to collaborate. Internal and external social communication fuels the development of new product and service development by employing social listening and analytics. It's the application of the new communication medium that was introduced by social media into the very fabric of how we work.

I believe that social business is the next step in the evolutionary process in the day-to-day functions of digitally enabled enterprises. Much in the same way that the Internet revolutionized how we all work in the era of e-business; social processes, technology, and mindsets will revolutionize how people in organizations connect, collaborate, and share knowledge.

What Do You Think?

Of course, this debate continues in the marketplace, and since this is an ongoing evolution, it's likely to change. Large software vendors like Adobe, IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Salesforce.com are starting to formulate strategies for developing new ways business is conducted in the digital and social era. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what this means for you - and also for the future of your business.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Killebrew

Michelle Killebrew is passionate about marketing, especially innovative digital marketing strategies that deliver a superior brand experience - from initial acquisition through to loyal customer - and increase growth and profitability. She currently leads digital direct marketing and transformation for the IBM Cloud division where her team is responsible for the marketing strategy and lead generation engine for the division, including a digital lab designed to optimize digital platforms and user experience.

Previously, Michelle led the go-to-market strategy for IBM Social Business category, where her team focused on the strategy, messaging, positioning, thought leadership, and content for the more than 400 solutions that define social business and demonstrate how organizations can embrace this next information revolution in the workforce; a #NewWaytoWork. She maintains her passion for people-centric engagement as a social business evangelist. Prior to that, she headed up the worldwide go-to-market and revenue-bearing demand generation campaign strategy for IBM's new Smarter Commerce initiative (then made up of eight recently acquired companies), where her team was responsible for marketing B2B/commerce and enterprise marketing management solutions to meet the needs of the empowered customer.

She was recently named a "Top 40 Under 40" award recipient by Direct Marketing News, and among the "26 Content Marketing Experts to Follow in 2015", "150 Great Marketers to Follow in 2015" and "Top 25 Women to Rock Social Media of 2014."

Michelle has more than15 years of high-tech marketing and holds a B.S. in economics from Santa Clara University.

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