From Social Media to Social Business Design

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We are now seeing conferences dedicated solely to Twitter—the latest was Jeff Pulver’s 140Char held in NYC. Like many others who were not at the event, I was able to attend virtually through following tweets. After a while I thought to myself—wait a minute, we’re still just talking about "social media" in silos. What about the bigger picture? And what do you ask is the big picture?

Great question.

Let’s start here, the term "social media" itself is indicative of the state of affairs. "Media" limits our view of the movement, and brings with it the baggage of decades of advertising. Marketers are only too happy to view the social web as a new array of channels to market their goods in some shape or fashion. That’s because it’s a model they’ve used since the beginning. And there’s no doubt that "social media" has become effective as a communications channel. Take GM for example, they’ve got a presence on Twitter, and in fact were one of the early examples of corporate blogging. They’ve "joined the conversation" so to speak with several of their executives actively contributing and talking to people in the open. But with hindsight being 20/20, what GM didn’t have was a business model (or culture) that could adapt quickly in a rapidly changing environment. So, while it’s great for a large organization to be tweeting, blogging and conversing their way into Web 2.0 nirvana—it’s also worth noting that no amount of "media" social or otherwise will turn around an organization in need of reinvention. That’s the big picture at the end of the day.

Enter Social Business Design 
Imagine if a company like GM, was at the core "social". Not just participating in "social media"—but through every part of their business ecosystem, were connected—plugged into a collective consciousness made up of ALL their constituents, from employees to consumers to dealers, to assembly line works etc. What if big organizations worked the way individuals now do. We’re actively using cloud services, mobile, networks and applications that offer real time dynamic signals vs. inefficient and static e-mail exchanges. In short, imagine if what makes "Web.2.0" revolutionary was applied to every facet of an organization transforming how we work, collaborate and communicate? We think this is possible. And we’re calling it "social business design". In its purest form, it’s a shift in thinking—less about media and more about tapping the benefits of being a social business in a purposeful way.

While I can’t go into the full vision of what we’re thinking about yet—we’re realizing that the bigger picture goes beyond how you can be a great tweeter, blogger or social media evangelist for your organization. It’s time to think beyond marketing and building personal brands and time to think about how participation through social technologies can lead to emergent outcomes for any organization. Can "social media" save GM? It’s unlikely that media can save any organization grappling with changes in their business environment. But what if organizations of that size were able to act preemptively before market conditions forced them into similar predicaments? Same could be said for the music industry, they saw change coming, but for whatever reason never made the transformation, even though it was becoming clear that consumer behavior had evolved. Media has never solved these types of business challenges so why would "social media" be any different?

Life After Social Media: Four Core Archetypes
In the diagram above, you might notice the four archetypes we’ve been thinking about for a while (for more detail, read colleague Jevon MacDonald’s post). We believe they represent the four characteristics that every social business will contain. They are: Ecosystem, Hivemind, Dynamic Signal, and Metafilter. Simply put, it’s time to think about the big picture and the strategies that drive social technology as opposed to the other way around. This includes how a company’s (insert social initiatives) play a role in their entire ecosystem—and this will take our discussions from "conversation" to "transformation".

Enterprise 2.0 And Beyond
We are currently working on rolling out a set of offerings to help businesses understand and apply these constructs to achieve leveraged and emergent outcomes that are measurable. If you want to find out more about this in the near future, visit our temporary site and submit your info. Our team will also be present at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston next week. We’ll be live streaming some of the content from that event. I’m looking forward to getting to know this crowd better—it’s not the typical marketing bent. While I’m sure there will be a lot of talk about Twitter, I’m hoping the discussion will move beyond this or any other tool. If the big picture is business transformation, it’s going to take more than a few tweets to get there.

For related thoughts from the folks I’m working with, see Peter Kim, Jevon MacDonald, and Kate Niederhoffer. And if you’re going to E2.0, please say hello.

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