Social media has completely revolutionized our society in a matter of years. It has changed the way we interact, communicate and connect. More than 500 million people are on Facebook and nearly 340 million tweets are sent each day. People now take breaks from work to participate on social media, and they live their lives connected to it. As a result the world is a much smaller place with information traveling faster than ever before. With this kind of new media a new set of social norms have begun to develop. Businesses are now transitioning to online platforms. This transition is going to dramatically alter the way businesses approach the internet, their customers and colleges. Companies are now engaging in social business, which while similar to social media it is different in its span, influence and returns. Social media is the simple form of social business.
According to Sandy Carter IBM Vice President and Social Business evangelist, social business is
“a business that embeds social in all of its processes, connecting people to people, people to information and data to insight. It is a company that engages its employees and clients in two way dialog with social tools, it is transparent in sharing its expertise beyond its four walls and is nimble in its use of insight to change on a dime. It is different from social media in that social media primarily focusses on marketing and public relations.”
For social business to be successful it needs to be completely adopted by the company and integrated in the business process to build a new process. Employees will work in a more collaborative and open environment, and produce more dynamic results as a result of this environment.
The transition to social business does not have a clear path. CEOs, executives and business leaders, often digital immigrants are starting to realize the value of incorporating social business. While to the people of my generation, digital natives, this may seem obvious. It is none the less a huge proposition. We are all becoming digital citizens, the social media tools have become ingrained in our everyday lives. Whenever a new technology comes around it eventually eclipses the one before it. In today’s world that means social media and social business have begun to take over what email and instant messaging used to do. The tasks preformed through those mediums are now more easily and more efficiently completed on a different platform.
Social media began for most people as a great way to stay in touch with friends, keep up on the latest news and post pictures for vacation. But, smart businesses caught on quickly and realized the potential social media presented for them. Companies began to transform social media to social business. Social business provides a stable platform for a business to send out messages to wide audiences, wether that be internally within the company or externally to customers.
Companies now manage Facebook pages, twitter accounts, Linkined accounts, blogospheres and youtube channels just to name a few external sites. Many companies now have their own private social sites just for the business where employees can collaborate and share ideas. The creation of these social business sites will eclipse the use of email in the coming years. These sites are so great for companies because the eliminate the problem of changed email addresses, full mailboxes or lengthy thread group emails. These new platforms are designed to create an easy where to share information to customers or employees anywhere in the world.
With the building of this new social world on the internet the sharing of information is faster than ever. While, this can be an excellent thing for businesses it also has some inherent risks. Companies now need to create positions for social business within their company. The platform needs to be supported from within if it is going to be successful. Companies today need to have entire teams dedicated just to social business, they need managers and curators. With the spread of information so quickly and permanently on the internet the social business team needs to be constantly working. The response time for crisis is now critically short. It is their job to protect the brand online, set guidelines for recovery from mishaps and assess risks. They also need to analyze the sentiment of customers, process the data received and build and follow the content activation plan for the social business.
Even with the inherent risks of social business, the rewards from properly using it are undeniable. Social business has allowed companies to build relationships with clients like never before.The conversation between company and client is now a two way street. According to a study by Burson-Marsteller 79% of Fortune 500 companies use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or corporate blogs to communicate with customers. Companies that use social business can interact with their customers in real time, social business allows for more collaboration internally and externally. Social Businesses thrive on how customers respond, they reanalyze their goals based on the results. Social Businesses build trust with their customers, in turn building a brand army loyal to them.
Companies without interest in social business will not be successful in the future, whether they be moving forward into the social realm or fleeing from it, not understanding social business and not having policies to deal with it in place is the worst thing a company could do.