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Social Business

People don’t do business with companies.
People do business with people.
Here is why―and how—to become a Social Business.

Social business moves front and center

Social business is the next step in the overall evolution of business. As our global network of people becomes more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent, dramatic shifts are taking place. The ways in which people interact, relationships form, decisions are made, work is accomplished and goods are purchased are fundamentally changing.

Consumers now wield unprecedented power over how brands are perceived and purchases are made (US). Crowdsourcing is changing industry landscapes by leveling the intelligence playing field at an extraordinary rate. In addition, employees are demanding social tools in the workplace, and are actively sidestepping established hierarchies and IT processes to use them. As a result, the world finds itself at a transformative point with regard to how business is done. We believe it is the dawn of a new era―the era of the social business.

Just as the advent of e-business changed business forever, ten years later organisations find themselves at another junction point in the evolution of business: the coming of age for social business as social computing and social media are integrated into enterprise design.

CEOs expect social media use to rise 256%

Rock solid innovation

Cemex, the third-largest building materials company in the world, discovered the powerful link between collaboration and innovation. They launched a new global product in one third of the time by becoming a social business.


The language of collaboration

Berlitz Corporation, a global language education provider, uses IBM social collaboration solutions to tap into the collective intelligence of its 12,000 worldwide employees, producing higher quality products in one third of the time.



Not when… but how to do social business

The data is clear: social business propels results (PDF, 958KB). Fifty seven percent of companies who invest in social business outperform their peers. They see real business value, whether it's a 25% increase in business or a 20% drop in the time it takes to manage projects. 1

Social business is no longer "nice to do," it's a necessity to survive today's volatile business climate. According to Forrester Research, spending on social business software is expected to grow at a rate of 61 percent through 2016, a year in which the market for these products will reach $6.4 billion, compared with $600 million 2010.2

So what does a social business look like?

A social business isn't just a company that has a Facebook page and a Twitter handle. A social business is one that embraces and cultivates a spirit of collaboration and community throughout its organisation—both internally and externally.

IBM has identified three distinct characteristics of a social business:

  • Engaged—deeply connecting people, including customers, employees, and partners, to be involved in productive, efficient ways.
  • Transparent—removing boundaries to information, experts and assets, helping people align every action to drive business results.
  • Nimble—speeding up business with information and insight to anticipate and address evolving opportunities.

Conversations with Industry Innovators with Guy Kawasaki. Watch the Video.

Listen to lively discussions about social business with other leading thinkers in the IBM Social Business Digital Library


60 second snapshots of real Social Businesses at work
See more videos about people and practices in the IBM social business video library (US).

Red Funnel
UK ferry operator Red Funnel uses social networks to update passengers on travel status.

Newly Weds Foods
A worldwide supplier of food ingredients cooks up a competitive edge by socially connecting its operations.

Australian Bureau of Statistics
This organisation inspires better work and generates greater insight by connecting its employees socially.

Novgorod University
A Russian university enables collaboration and sharing between teachers and students worldwide.

Social accessibility
IBM developers increased inclusion and collaboration by improving accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing in their social software.


Social Business is about moving beyond the social media tools you're currently familiar with to unlock the potential of the people and gain a competitive advantage. Today, by combining social networking tools—internally and externally—with sophisticated analytic capabilities, companies are transforming their business processes, building stronger relationships among their employees, customers and business partners and making better decisions, faster. This is what makes a social business—embracing networks of people to create new business value and opportunities.


1. IBM. "Social business: the advent of a new age" (PDF, 958KB) 2011.

2. "Social Enterprise Apps Redefine Collaboration," Forrester Research, Inc., November 30, 2011.