Social Business, Do We Still Need to Define Social Business?Why is it, this late in the day, that when some people talk about social business it sounds like an "everything but the kitchen sink" approach?

I participated in the October 24th Tweet Jam: Becoming a Responsive Social Business #SocBizChat and was struck that even among those whose role has them 100 percent focused on Social Business, most are still lumping the very different facets of what we classify as Social Business together.

'Go Social' Means ...

Let me preface this by saying I've had strong feelings about the terminology since the Dachis Group crafted the term to encompass anything that had to do with connecting humans for the purpose of doing business online. What bugged me about it then still bugs me about it now. In our drive to make something so simple that anyone can get it, nobody gets it -- for years and years.

It's kind of like a kid answering the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A scientist? A doctor. What kind? Huh?

There are different reasons to leverage social tools, and there are different considerations and approaches to take into account when planning to "go social." Without that depth of comprehension, many suffer costly disappointment in their efforts to become a "social business."

For clarity, there are four broad and general focuses (as well as different practices within each):

  • Internal employee networks;
  • Marketing and listening in social networks and the web;
  • Customer support in social networks, social platforms and the web; and
  • Businesses where the membership to a social network is the product.

As this notion of social business (or should we call it Digital now? how retro!) becomes standard operating procedure for a number of organizations, what gets trimmed out of the budget is depth and therefore, often, quality or success in outcome.

Seeking Clarity

What I suggest is combating this fuzziness. Go deep and understand that the tools won’t change your organization, but they do bring a potential to facilitate change if the humans involved are aware and educated walking into it. If this notion of a truly connected company, where employees have enough agency to keep customers happy in their relationship with an organization, is ever to become the norm, we need to know what we're trying to achieve and perform a bit of self-analysis to understand if we're barking up the right tree.

Here are a few lines of question to consider before running forward with a social initiative.

  • What are the goals?
  • Are they clear enough to be turned into behavioral action?
  • If there are fuzzy terms in your answer have you defined them as a group?
  • Is the goal to install software or to achieve a business outcome?
  • Who are you trying to engage? Employees? Customers? Potential customers?
  • Have you assessed the quality of the current relationship with these groups?
  • Do you understand what you are trying to achieve within these relationships?
  • Have you assessed the differences in their needs and are you prepared to change your processes at scale to support the changes you propose?
  • Are the right stakeholders on board with these ideas? If not, how do you plan to meet their concerns?
  • How will you support, at scale, tools that can increase visibility of gaps in process, communication or existing cultural dysfunction?
  • Are you, yourself, willing to behave in the ways you're asking others to behave?

On the other side of that line of questioning is the need to take a risk and just get started, which I recommend, as long as it's not being done with a blind eye to the expertise of those who've gone before you or unconsciousness around the needs of your people. Any of the elements I've questioned can kill a burgeoning network, but never getting started has a similar effect.

When clarity in the opportunity presents itself, clarity in a solution can follow.

Title image courtesy of MilsiArt (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more from Megan in Getting Real About Employee Engagement