Call it the tipping point, the moment of truth, a watershed event or any other synonym for when things have arrived at a point of irreversible, no-going-back, change. Is 2013 going to be the year when social media truly becomes social business and social business morphs into business as usual?
Probably not. Reams of data suggest that most companies are using social media. Most of those are still really just dabbling. Truly embracing social media as a core element of business going forward requires a belief and commitment that is still difficult to find in companies with more traditional business models and a bias towards the tried-and-true. But with proof points on the efficacy of the practice/process/technology/culture of social media becoming more and more plentiful, it would seem that the more programmatic embrace of social media is coming closer to a need-to-have more than a nice-to-have.
The concept of a “social business” is still probably nascent enough that there remain a number of definitions running around. In a recent report from Altimeter Group, Charlene Li and Brian Solis outlined the difference between a social media strategy and a social business strategy:
A social media strategy lays out the channels, platforms, and tactics to support publishing, listening, and engagement. A social business strategy is the integration of social technologies and processes into business values, processes, and practices to build relationships and spark conversations inside and outside the organization, creating value and optimizing impact for customers and the business alike. The most important criteria for a successful social business strategy are twofold: clear alignment with the strategic business goals of an organization AND organizational alignment and support that enables execution of that strategy.
Social media broadly permeates society (perhaps too much!) and that means it permeates business operations on all levels. Ad hoc social activity runs rampant across the enterprise so it stands to reason that sooner or later, every company will want to formalize and harmonize these activities into a coherent strategy and plan. Social business technologies help people connect, communicate, and share information and, whether informal or formal, use of those technologies allow companies to respond more quickly, take advantage more easily, and create competitive advantage.
Companies have historically tended to demonize those things that impact their business but remain beyond their control. Though it may be stating the obvious, social media is one big, fat dynamic that is altering the playbook for business and not just in the marketing discipline. De facto, every business today is a social business; they may just not have internalized it yet. Possessing a strategy is merely the first step in the formal embrace of social. That way, all those “Likes”, “Friends”, “Links”, and “Follows” can mean something more than a distraction.
Along those lines, here is a video from GE on their progression towards becoming a social business.