What is Social Business?

The term ‘social business’ is becoming more widely used in connection with using social media technologies, tools and practices internally within a business to enable greater sharing of ideas and employee connectivity. It can reflect a change in culture and in change management.

The term isn’t new and has been one of a number of phrases to describe social entrepreneurship and social enterprises – where businesses have social goals such as who they employ, the environment, fair trade, giving back to the local community and putting people, society and issues before profit. Good examples of such businesses are Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant, the People Tree fashion house and the Grameen Bank.

All of which means things can get a bit confusing.

Look up ‘social business’ in Wikipedia and you’ll quickly see that the older use of the term is employed.

Screen shot from Wikipedia social business entry

Why mention this?
I was recently asked to take part in a set of videos for IBM looking at the newer use of the term, which was not something I was going to turn down. Yet having worked with social enterprises on and off for over ten years I’m still not comfortable with its newer use, even if the principles are something that I would generally encourage and that I also work as a consultant and trainer with clients to help them put into practice.

Two of the videos produced by IBM are below, so that you can get some sense of how IBM and others consider ‘social business’.

Perhaps like the term ‘social media’ the very practices it describes will become so prevalent that we will understand these practices as simply media and good business? There is one more video yet to be published entitled ‘The Future of Social Business’, which may also indicate a solution.

How to deliver social impact with social media – a guide

Cover of Social by Social
Cover of Social by Social
Thought I’d bring your attention to a book and website that has just launched that could prove useful for you or or organisation if it’s thinking about social media.

Social by Social is ‘a practical guide to using new technologies to deliver social impact’. Supported by NESTA it has been put together by five highly experienced social entrepreneurs and reporters using social media in the UK. Their aim with the book (which you can order (£7.99), download for free as a PDF or read online) was to:

…help people in the public and third sectors do more good, by showing them the power of these technologies and how to access them. In the process, we hope we can also educate funders and policy workers about the huge shift of mindset and expectations needed to commission these projects successfully, to give the innovators more space to work.

Reading through, the advice and information given is as valid for corporate communications and businesses as it is for anyone in the third sector, individual or groups planning a campaign. Of particular note is the set of 38 initial propositions (or manifesto) for working in social media, which include advice such as:

1. Give up the illusion of control
2. People make technology matter

5. Go where people are

8. Learn to listen before you start talking

14. Start small

16. Keep it simple

Worth a read.

Also see: Writing a corporate Twitter strategy.