Report author: Miranda Man. Despite the growing ubiquity of social technology, many businesses are still getting to grips with what social business is. This report provides an overview of social business - and why it matters.
AN INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL BUSINESS Why does Social Business Matter? Miranda Man, Strategist at BLOOM, October 2012
! About BLOOM Social BusinessBLOOM is a social business consultancy that specialises in social business strategy,insight and change management. We help our clients to put social media andsocial technologies at the heart of their success and implement practices thatempower them to engage more effectively with their clients and communities. WWW.BLOOMSOCIALBUSINESS.COM 2
! An Introduction to Social Business Why Does Social Business Matter?It is becoming hard to escape the term ‘social business,’ with 2012 being hailed by someas The Year of Social Business. With the growing ubiquity of social media platforms, thisis perhaps not surprising. However, despite this, many businesses are still getting togrips with the value of social business and what can be achieved. So, what are thebenefits of being a social business? Why does social business matter?Firstly, it is worth looking at the state of business before social media: one could arguethat business has traditionally been social. In the first half of the twentieth century,small family run shops were typical and were central hubs of a community. As thecentury progressed, businesses up-scaled and one consequence was the greaterdisconnection between the customer, employees and the business. A late twentiethcentury business could hide behind the doors of Corporate Communications, HR andCustomer Services.The social media explosion – time to ‘get social’It goes without saying that social media has revolutionised the way humans interact andcommunicate and businesses are very keen to ‘get social.’ However, Facebook andTwitter presences are all very well but if they are just another arm of PR and a methodsolely to push out corporate messages, then they do not constitute social business. Thisuse of social media does not constitute the traits of a social business and is at odds withthe participative and conversation based user experience behind social media.So what constitutes social business? (This is not a definitive description!)A social business fosters interactions between the customer and the company,encouraging two way communication. A social business operates transparently andpublically, not behind the closed doors of corporate communications.Some good examples of Twitter being used to engage with customers include traincompanies and BT, two industries that have their fair share of angry customers. NationalRail is using Twitter to push through real time information and responses to theircustomers. Similarly, BT has a dedicated customer care channel. Using Twitter enablesthe companies to use a more human rather than corporate voice and to provide quickresponses.Why should this matter?The customer now has a powerful voice, amplified by social media. It is now mucheasier for customers to connect with other customers. More importantly, bad peerreviews can be devastating – if a customer does not like a product or service, they canshare their views quickly with a very wide audience.Whilst a late 20th century business sold products or services, businesses today are moreabout selling the actual customer experience. For example, Zappos has made a WWW.BLOOMSOCIALBUSINESS.COM 3
!successful business by providing excellent customer service, which has been powered bysocial media.Social business therefore matters to actively and openly engage with customers.Social on the outside, social on the insideWhilst connecting openly with customers is important, this is only half of the story. Abusiness needs to engage with their employees too or they risk delivering a false brandpromise: wonderfully engaged and customer friendly social media presences butdisconnected employees behind closed, company doors. A social business should besocial on the inside too.Traditional business structure v Social business structureTraditional businesses tend to be structured by hierarchy: employees have their place ina top down organisation structure. Open dialogue between Chief Executive and staff isdifficult, and employees are typically unaware of anything that is going on in otherdepartments. This closed culture leads to information silos and a disconnected workingculture.In a social business however, where the principles of social media are applied, hierarchiesdo exist but are supported by networks. Communication is more flowing and two way.There is increased visibility of what other employees are doing through ambientawareness. A social business also encourages collaborative working and, similar to Agileprinciples, puts human interaction above processes. Whilst social tools such as wikis andnetworking platforms are facilitators, it is worth stressing that social business is not aboutthe technology: the internal culture and perceptions are key.Why should this matter?A socially calibrated business is simply more efficient: increased visibility and greatersharing leads to better decision making, effective working and improved staff morale.This can have business benefits: an engaged employee is more likely to be a company’sor department’s best advocate, amplifying messages to their network.Grant Thornton and Nokia are two good examples of socially calibrated businesses.Grant Thornton UK, part of the global tax and advisory firm, have integrated socialbusiness into their strategic aims. Nokia have also incorporated social into their businessstrategy and have implemented Agora and Socializer, tools that help employees to keepin-tune with their customers and also open up communications between employees.The way forward in the 21st century is socialA social business fosters customer, company and employee interaction: it encouragestransparency and openness. In whole, this has a humanising effect on business – puttingpeople and relationships at the core of business strategy. All businesses can surelybenefit from having more engaged customers, an increased social reach and moreproductive employees: that is why social business matters. WWW.BLOOMSOCIALBUSINESS.COM 4
! Want to find out more? If you are interested in finding out how social business could work for you, please contact us! firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0) 1273 862340 @bloomworldwide WWW.BLOOMSOCIALBUSINESS.COM 5