Since all companies want to succeed in business, they should try to utilize all of the latest tools that can better connect them to their customer and prospects – in this case social media. In fact, the SHOMI (Sap, HP, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM) companies are all using social strategies and technologies to better engage with their customers.

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The term "Social Business" has been completely redefined from its original meaning. For those of you that don’t know, the term was coined by the Noble Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yuna. And now that phrase seems to have migrated away from its ethical goals of helping people with pressing needs, to helping enterprise organizations sell their products and services.

In the newer sense of the term, Social Business has both internal and external implications. For the Enterprise, it requires genuine organizational transformation -- into a social business. While this could first start with understanding your customers, providing the right framework and infrastructure will increase the probability of success.

Identify Your Goals

Another important element is getting alignment on your business goals and success metrics. It is important to look at the bigger picture from the outset: what are you really trying to solve? Are you trying to get employees to be more collaborative so they generate more product ideas or are you trying to drive external sales? Or both? These goals could require completely different strategies and programs but in the end they should all circle back to the overall objective -- engaging with customers to enhance your business -- why should the two be mutually exclusive?

Foster Innovation

The challenge is to foster an environment where employees can collaborate better, have the room to innovate and can become external ambassadors for the company. To do this right, I recommend you focus on humanizing your organization, and if you really want to do that right, you need to start with the people who log into your company email everyday (not all people show up at the office). Humanizing your brand and products also starts with having the support of the leadership at the top, giving people permission to experiment and fail, and to learn and improve over time. At Intuit, we called this "Learn, Teach, Learn.”

At NetApp, they recently announced that any employee could create their own mobile applications. Similarly, Intuit has made a push in innovation in the last few years, with Idea Jams (taking a page from IBM’s Playbooks), by developing small cross-functional product teams and letting employees blog and tweet with minimal corporate directive. Intuit realizes the power of bringing people together who have different experiences, different skill sets and different understandings of technology.

Be Agile

In some companies this requires a complete transformation of the enterprise. In others, it is more a question of the culture, the company’s DNA, and having leaders who are open to a new way of doing business. Social business requires an agile approach. It is about having the infrastructure and insight to anticipate and quickly address the evolving needs of the marketplace.

All of this will impact your company’s external activities. In an ideal world, internal silos would fall like the Berlin Wall. Unfortunately, today, cross-functional teams or centers of excellence are rare. However, each internal group can benefit, whether it is bringing products to market faster, having customers and partners answer service questions, or using word of mouth to generate leads, by cross-functional collaboration.

Build the Framework for Collaboration

A social business recognizes that ‘it’s about the people and for the people,” so companies need to identify tribes who want to collaborate, engage and contribute. They need to create the infrastructure and framework to bring these parties together.

As we have learned at Human 1.0, this can help humanize your brand, which will make your products and services more desirable and approachable. Here are some gentle reminders on how to become more of a social business:

  1. Don’t start with the platform or your internal technologies. Many companies license collaborative platforms without focusing on how willing and able people (employees and customers) adopt technology and what the tool needs to accomplish.
  2. Start with your employees by building an environment (with them) where they can experiment and learn, and at the same time recognizing and understanding what’s important to them.
  3. Create the framework and provide simple guidelines and guardrails for employees on how to engage with customers.
  4. Be clear on what you are solving for and how you will measure success.
  5. Start with the various tribes in your ecosystem that have similar goals, interests, pain points, language, etc.

Social Business is really about humanizing your company, your brand and your products and services -- whether you’re helping companies in the third world or a Fortune 1000 company wanting to continue to be successful in business.

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