In recent times, I've noticed a rise in discussions around the "death of social business" and also an increase in alternative "fill in the blank but don't use the word social" businesses. Some of those discussions have been hosted here recently. There's strong merit to the discussions of course, especially those I've hosted (be sure to read the comments). But as an analyst tracking the evolution of social businesses and equally the cause and effect of digital transformation overall, I'm learning that the most advanced organizations see social not as a technology movement but instead one of culture and philosophy. Openness, collaboration, transparency, communication...these aren't buzz words. Among those leading change, these words represent a way of business and it all starts with vision and the ability to see how relationships and experiences with customers and employees can improve or accomplish new and greater goals.
Along the way, I've also learned that pushing for social adoption because of technology misses the point of change. The true catalyst isn't whatever the latest trend in social media is this week. That's reactive and almost impossible to leapfrog. The truth is that change is fueled by the effect that social media, mobile, and other forms of disruptive technologies have on customer behavior. Whether it's B2B, B2C, B2B2C, or whatever model you prefer, as long as we're talking about connected human beings, you can bet that social and digital in general are influencing discovery, decision-making, and impressions in every moment of truth.
The evolution of social business as we know it today traces back to The Cluetrain Manifesto in the late 1990s, where its authors predicted that markets would become conversations. Here we are at the cusp of 2014, and businesses, and the strategists who lead social efforts, continue to struggle with sparking executive understanding, adoption, and leadership. The real story is about what's happening beneath all that we see or think we see.
So what's obstructing the evolution of social business?
Part of the problem is that social media and how it differs from traditional channels remains largely misconstrued. As a result, new opportunities, and the strategies, systems, and processes that support them, are either nascent or overlooked.
A social business is more than an organization that invests in a positive global footprint to overcome the world's biggest problems, such as inequality and poverty. The term has developed to now also represent companies that are more open, transparent, and participatory in conversations and activity that defines markets. But the challenge is that social media strategists may actually be hampering its potential by not helping executives see the bigger picture beyond the technology.
Last month, Charlene Li and I published our latest Altimeter Group report, "The State of Social Business 2013." In our research, we were surprised that businesses were still unsure of the role social media played enterprise-wide, beyond marketing and communications. Many, we found, were limited in scope and not universal in engagement with customers, employees, suppliers, partners, community, et al. Specifically, we learned that...
- Only half (52%) of companies say that their executives are informed, engaged, and aligned with the enterprise social strategy
- A mere 26% of organizations self-describe as being "holistic" in their social media approach, where business functions operate against an enterprise-level vision and strategy
- Just 17% of organizations self-described as being truly "strategic" in the execution of their social strategies
This month, Charlene and I are releasing the data charts from our latest report, plus additional material, to help strategists learn how to amplify or accelerate their social business strategy. The charts are available as stand-alone images on Flickr or as a complete deck via Slideshare. As always, this information is made available freely as part of Altimeter's open research program. Please feel free to use the images or slides at work, in posts, on stage, or whichever way that helps you make a point or case.
Along with highlighting major issues (and opportunities) through this survey data, the presentation includes perspectives and inspirational quotes from executives and strategists at Sephora, Adobe, ARAMARK, Ford, Fidelity, Royal Dutch Shell, Wells Fargo among others.
We hope that you'll find the slides in this presentation useful as resource and background material, as you continue to make your business case for social business.