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8/5/2011
08:56 PM
Jamie Pappas
Jamie Pappas
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Is 'Social Business' The Right Choice Of Words?

It's never in your best interests to try to convince executives to support terminology they're uncomfortable defending.

For the past five years that I've been working in Enterprise 2.0, social media, or whatever you'd like to call it, people have been trying to put an all-encompassing label on their efforts to deploy Web-based tools and processes to improve collaboration, communications, and efficiency.

In the past year or two, individuals have pushed forth the notion of calling it "social business," assumedly in an attempt to highlight the fact that they want employees, and therefore organizations, to become more social entities. We've seen software providers use the term, and organizations and agencies even label their affinity groups "social business," but is this really the right choice of words?

I don't think so. The goal isn't to make organizations more "social" entities. It's to get people to share more information, knowledge, and ideas in order to enhance processes, save time, and produce business results. Some might argue that I'm splitting hairs, but words do matter.

Just about every executive I've talked with doesn't care for this "social" terminology, because it doesn't speak to goals--the real business outcomes that would justify the initiative in the first place. It's the same reason many organizations still ban employees from using social networking sites at work, even Facebook and Twitter: They perceive them as not producing business outcomes. The word "social" implies lack of work and productivity.

Agree or disagree, this is how a lot of business leaders see it, so we need to adjust our nomenclature if we want to see continued adoption and use of these tools and technologies to produce positive business outcomes.

Sure, a certain amount of education is still needed to convince the unconvinced that social networking sites and employee communities do change business processes and produce tangible cost savings and other business outcomes. But is it really in your best interest to try to convince executives to support terminology they're uncomfortable defending? That's like marketing to your target customers using a set of keywords they never use. (Oh, wait--we see businesses doing that all the time, too.)

It's high time that we consider our audience when making the case for enabling an organization to become more collaborative, communicative, and efficient. Trying to force our audience to adopt a description that makes them uncomfortable will never work.

So what should we call it? It really depends on the organization and culture. Understanding the culture of the business is the first step in setting strategy. Work with your executives to understand their pain points and business objectives, and go from there. Using their language and providing a means for them to discuss the initiative in a way they can really get behind will expedite the path to a truly collaborative organization.

What do you think? Will your senior leadership buy into the notion if your organization calls it "social business"? If it has already, was it a hard sell?

Jamie is vice president of social media at AMP Agency, where she leads the development and execution of strategic social media solutions for clients across a range of digital and social channels. Contact her via Twitter @JamiePappas or at jamiepappas423@gmail.com.

The views expressed in this column are Jamie's alone and do not reflect the thoughts, intentions, plans, or strategies of her employer.

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara, Nov. 14-17, 2011, and learn how to drive business value with collaboration, with an emphasis on how real customers are using social software to enable more productive workforces and to be more responsive and engaged with customers and business partners. Register today and save 30% off conference passes, or get a free expo pass with priority code CPHCES02. Find out more and register.

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social-biz.org
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social-biz.org,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/10/2011 | 12:14:08 AM
re: Is 'Social Business' The Right Choice Of Words?
Yes, last year's Enterprise 2.0 conference everyone was calling it social business.

http://social-biz.org/2010/11/...

The Enterprise 2.0 Forum in Milan Italy changed there name this year to "Social Business Forum" I think the name is going to stick.
BMEYER943
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BMEYER943,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/9/2011 | 1:16:51 PM
re: Is 'Social Business' The Right Choice Of Words?
Thanks, Jamie, for an interesting post and discussion. Interesting, because as a marketer, my quest is to find those right words that describe new technologies ("social" ones for the past few years), and make those words ideally resonate with the audience. Interesting also, because I work for Socialtext, one of the first providers of enterprise social software, as we call it. In fact, as our co-founder and now chairman Ross Mayfield posted on our blog back in 2006, Andrew McAfeeG«÷s original article on Enterprise 2.0 "was borne from observing what was happening in one of our customers and projecting into the future."
http://www.socialtext.com/blog...

Clearly, we have a strong affinity to "Enterprise 2.0". But I think you are right - "social" means different things to different people, and while its success in technologies and platforms within the consumer world is unquestionable, its fit with the enterprise very much still is. How do you take these successful social concepts and bring them into the organization in a way that indeed is productive and improves work and business results?

Our tagline became "Where work gets done. Together." As enterprises continue to see real business impact from adopting social software, I'm sure our words will continue to change over time, but the concepts manifest themselves.

https://twitter.com/Britta_SF
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
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8/29/2011 | 9:09:40 PM
re: Is 'Social Business' The Right Choice Of Words?
I find myself struggling often with this: social media, social networking, social enterprise, social business ... ? It seems like the application of the term "social collaboration" to almost any business function works almost all of the time.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor
Jim Klug
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Jim Klug,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/26/2011 | 9:43:18 AM
re: Is 'Social Business' The Right Choice Of Words?
You said that using "social" technologies don't support us to build more knowledge. In my opinion, the use of social collaboration tools does help to build institutional knowledge.

For example, when we hire a new employee, they spend their first couple of days reading though the exchanges in our internal social network. By being a member of the communities directly related to their job, they can red the conversations, find out more about their colleagues, discover the history and reasoning behind the decisions made before they came on board... And the opposite is true, when somebody leaves, their contribution remains and is not lost when they are gone.

Admittedly it isn't perfect, but it is one step closer to the Holy Grail promised by KM systems oh so long ago.
Jim Klug
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Jim Klug,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/26/2011 | 9:20:34 AM
re: Is 'Social Business' The Right Choice Of Words?
We are facing the same problem. However, in the EU, "social" has a slightly different meaning. It is closer to the "Social" in Social Security and not social as in one-to-one communication.

We are facing another problem as well. We looked at the confusion when it comes to "social media" and "social networks" here http://www.bluekiwi-software.c...

Greg Lloyd
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Greg Lloyd,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/18/2011 | 3:35:40 PM
re: Is 'Social Business' The Right Choice Of Words?
Jamie -- A very good piece, and I agree that words matter. "Enterprise 2.0" was introduced by Andrew McAfee - a bright and creative business school professor, not the marketing department some big corporation. It's a term that's broad enough to encompass new practices, talking about social software as an enabling technology, not an end in itself. As a business partner in Japan said: "To Japanese business people, 'social' means 'party time' or golf, not work."

I've argued that the "2.0" should refer to version two of the Enterprise - reshaping communication and management practices to take advantage of changes in scale, scope and global reach that social software enables. The patron saints of Enterprise 2.0 are Peter Drucker (management practice and values) and Douglas Engelbart (work practice and technology), see Enterprise 2.0 Schism from Nov 2009.

John Hagel and others at Deloitte's Center for the Edge published a very good study: Social Software for Business Performance The missing link in social software: Measurable business performance improvements which says "Early adopters of social software have the potential to reap financial rewards and develop skills and experience that can help build a stronger competitive position over time."

The Deloitte report includes careful analysis of value over a two year including "a 61 percent reduction in time required for compliance activities -- by leveraging social software tools", valuable improvements in customer service response, measurable improvement in exception handling and other metrics.

These are the kind of examples that will prompt skeptical executives to take a careful look at how they - and their competitors - can become more agile, effective and responsive by levering the skills of their employees and working relationships with customers, suppliers and partners.
MKREBS765
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MKREBS765,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/18/2011 | 9:59:18 AM
re: Is 'Social Business' The Right Choice Of Words?
Yes, you are right, that miscommunication and misinformation is a problem in companies and also with in the management of projects, which has to be solved. With modern tools and infrastructures we can reach a goal, which often is called Enterprise 2.0, bit in general you need all Stakeholders of a company to take part in these new forms of Enterprise Networks. In my opinion the Buzzword will change, but the general need of a bottom up strategy will get more an more important. I mention this also in my latest blog post under www.esentri.com, sorry that those articles in the moment are generally in german language but we will soon have some of the most interesting parts translated.
KCHAKKARAPANI605
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KCHAKKARAPANI605,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/18/2011 | 3:14:43 AM
re: Is 'Social Business' The Right Choice Of Words?
Great post. Right on target!! Following are the names that I have come across over the past 3-4 years. Enterprise 2.0, Enterprise Collaboration, Enterprise Social Collaboration, Social Intranet, Social Enterprise, Social Business, Social Networking for Business. I recently posted this in my blog post as well. http://goo.gl/WiXPe

Why is that we are having so many terms for this area? This causes a lot of confusion for organizations.

When we implemented the collaboration platform in our organization, we initially had many terms such as Social Intranet, Social Collaboration...didn't work - it was very tough to get the buy-in from the employees. We finally settled in with the term "Enterprise Collaboration" platform (under the assumption that you can collaborate well if you are social). This finally got accepted as they get it and they can relate to.
Jamie Pappas
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Jamie Pappas,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/18/2011 | 1:52:02 AM
re: Is 'Social Business' The Right Choice Of Words?
We tend to like the terms that are flashy and feel like they're new and shiny, don't we? (Well, some people do, anyway). I love your comparison to "desktop publishing."

In terms of consuming more information but building more knowledge - I think you're right here, but I have seen cases where knowledge was being built through collaboration. I think that's the inherent challenge of the community managers and evangelists to help people understand the difference between sharing "because we can" and collaborating because it produces better and more efficient results. Sure, it doesn't happen overnight that collaboration produces better results, but with practice, it does. I suppose there's a reason for the old adage "two heads are better than one." When we get to the point where the majority of the output is building more knowledge, then we've really hit the sweet spot, haven't we?

My general sense is that organizations and their employees still have a hard time prioritizing what to capture and err on the side of everything instead of thinking it through strategically and developing use cases and best practices for what to capture when, and why it's strategically important or how it can impact the business.

I consider myself a true supporter and evangelist for these tools, and I am proud in the knowledge that I've helped businesses to adopt these tools to achieve real results. But I'm also the first to admit that the cases where I've been most successful have been very tough conversations about the investment (money and people), the business benefits (real and perceived, measurable and unmeasurable), and the honest truth about the length of time it really takes to see true adoption and results.

Jamie Pappas
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Jamie Pappas,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/18/2011 | 1:44:39 AM
re: Is 'Social Business' The Right Choice Of Words?
It really should be that simple, shouldn't it Hyoun! Nice and straightforward, but certainly not as flashy or glamorous...which I guess is why we're having this conversation. :-)
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