Simplifying Social Business

Updated: May 18, 2010

Defining social business ─ the starting point

The Social Business model focuses on engagement, influence, collaboration, and creation with customers, partners, and employees.

Paul Greenberg captures it nicely with his thought that the intent of the social business model is to create mutual value in a transparent business environment. It's very much a customer-centric model, although partners and employees also play important roles. Social CRM (SCRM) is the customer part of the social business model. Looked at another way, social business is a return to a village mentality where people worked in the same community where they lived.

The modern spin on the village model ─ which is where social business comes in ─ is a company's village outposts can occur anywhere in the world, thanks to electronic and mobile connectivity. And these types of connectivity are very much important parts of the social model because of the ease of connecting people across geographic distances.

What's important to understand, though, is social business is not about technology although technology plays an important enabling role. The most important factors are…wait for it…people.

Social business is a paradigm shift

As a business leader, why should you care about social business?

The answer is because your customers and partners have become socially demanding in their business interactions. They want to engage, influence, collaborate, and create with your company to further they own needs.

All this translates into the social business model being a paradigm shift because it puts more power into the hands of customers.

To deploy a successful social business model, you'll need to:

  • Engage and collect data across multi-channels,
  • Monitor social channels and measure sentiment and activity.
  • Shape and influence your customers and partners ─ and be influenced by them.
  • Collaborate and create with your customers and partners, gaining from their ideation and feedback.

Communication in the social business world

The social business model recognizes the need to engage in both many-to-many conversations as well as the more traditional one-to-one interactions.

The many-to-many communication scenario recognizes customers and partners are actively participating in a variety of social channels in their personal and business lives. These conversations are often unstructured but they can provided your company with a wealth of intelligence about your products and services, as well as your competitors.

While the social model gives rise to many-to-many conversations, it doesn't replace the traditional one-to-one relationships with customers. What differs, though, are your customers' preferred outlets for communication. While phone and email continue to be popular, customers also use (or expect to use) social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, branded communities, and other channels.

Your challenge will be to gather customer-specific communiqués across multiple channels and store them by contact in your CRM system so your employees can review activity history.

The way real people work ─ or the problem with CRM systems

Getting people to adopt a CRM solution is hard. Sure they'll use one but how many people really like it?

People use complex and often fuzzy thought, impacted by group input, to navigate through the world, make decisions, and do work. Therein is the problem with CRM systems and other larger enterprise business systems. They're so doggone transactional and linear.

As we moved into a Web 2.0 world, and will continue moving into Web 3.0, it's all changing though. We're gaining the ability to capture unstructured data and find the patterns within it. Within those patterns is information about the way real people are working.

The result will go far beyond how we collect data. It will also impact how we manage our businesses.

The promise of social business and Social CRM

Social business allows us to once again emulate the human approach. It's not about adding a human touch to your business. Instead, it's about being human. In the process, social business unleashes the creative processes of real people, incorporating normal right- and left-brained processes, rather than force-fitting us solely into a left-brained, transactional mold.

The problem we face, though, is we're still trying to apply traditional business processes ─ a.k.a. transactional ones ─ to the emerging social model which employs networked and unstructured engagement. That's the reason why a chunk of people are struggling to grasp and embrace social business. It's hard to even understand what social business is and its value when you approach it from a left-brained, analytical view.

If you get the sense that social business will require re-engineering your process to incorporate both linear and non-linear engagement, you would be right.

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