There are a lot of definitions around social business. But there are 2 that have a lot of followers behind them. One of them is right; and the other in my opinion is very wrong!
First; let’s look at the one I disagree with.
Social business in my opinion is NOT when you are using various social media to engage with your audience external to the business. It is definitely social, but this does not make your business a social business. This is (and I use the term loosely) “conventional” marketing merely done on a social channel with real time analytics and feedback.
This leans more towards the embodiment of the trend of Social Activation. Where we have moved from having social media external to the business as an advertising channel; to using it for sentiment analysis and competitor monitoring through to a place where the brand is being discussed by your followers; in their own words. Taking your message and spreading it far and wide because they believe in what you do and why you do it. This is true social activation; this is not social business.
On the other hand then; what is social business in my opinion.
Social business is when you embrace the construct of social media within your organisation. When you breakdown the silos of information and control and move to a flatter and more accessible hierarchical structure.
Social business allows you to tap into the power of social media for the benefit of your internal stakeholders. One of the simplest examples to give is that of a technical employee having a query. In a “traditional” business that employee would have to email the entire staff base to see if anyone inside the organisation has the ability to answer his query. That single email has the potential to place a huge burden on the email infrastructure and cause a massive congestion on the network as staff begin “replying to all” and forwarding comments etc. in smaller cluster networks. A social business on the other hand allows that same employee to throw his question to a discussion board or a group; a group that have already preselected a predisposition to being able to help with queries of this nature.
This social construct has a far better chance of succeeding in getting the correct answer quickly and efficiently.
Social business is about breaking down these information barriers and allowing the information to permeate freely and get to quantifiable and meaningful outcomes quickly.
That’s why I believe social business is more than the activation of an external network. Yes, that is part of it; but that’s not the whole story of a truly social business.