Shifting From Social Media To Social Business Thinking

[This post was originally published on Memeburn]

The term social media refers to a set of web-based and mobile tools, technologies and platforms that enable connection, communication and collaboration in ways never before possible. Hopefully you’ve cottoned on to this by now.

The problem is that this definition doesn’t encompass the undeniable impact social media has had on society and business. I’ve been saying for years now that social media is not about tools, but about people. I believe that companies that grasp the ethos behind social media — and the behavioural changes resulting from the integration of these tools into daily life — will easily differentiate themselves from their competitors in years and decades to come.

Modern companies are still constructed on industrial age principles. The way information is disseminated and shared within organisations has not changed much in the last fifty years. Sure, the technologies have evolved but the hierarchies remain. Few technological advancements have been able to challenge this hierarchical mindset until social media burst onto the scene.

The social web gave us things like Wikipedia and Twitter, where influence is determined by what you share and contribute, not by your salary band or the plaque on your office door. There is no direct financial reward for those contributions — we share because we know we’re building something bigger and more important than ourselves. Our Boomer parents were taught that the intellectual property you learned and retained made you valuable and competitive. Today that IP is smeared all over the Web. Becoming an “expert” can be as simple as conducting a few Google searches and reading a few blogs. As the Cluetrain Manifesto prophesied 13 years ago: “Markets are getting smarter faster than most companies can keep up.”

As a result we have employees with an information age mindset trying to flourish in industrial age organisations; Square pegs in round holes.

Countless organisations still ban their staff from using social media during office hours fearing that they will waste time and bandwidth. This is short-sighted — their staff will either continue to engage on their personal computers or mobile phones or, even worse, find ways to access these sites via proxies or otherwise. Instead of banning use, why not incentivise the correct (or most constructive use) of social media during office hours? Make the content that staff find online and share with their colleagues a KPI come salary review time. Judge the relevance and usefulness of these content submissions via a simple internal “Like” mechanism coupled with a points system. This is hardly rocket science — the proof of concept is the web itself. Your organisation should emulate a microcosm of the social web.

Business needs to change. Well, business is changing and you either keep up or become redundant in the minds of your existing employees, your prospective employees and your customers. Because social media is changing human communication at the most fundamental levels, it touches all aspects of business. From a business perspective, social media should describe the tools used to communicate with employees and customers. But we need to start thinking about social business as the term that could address the way rapidly evolving consumers and employees are challenging we way we do finance, legal, human resourcing, strategy, governance and more.

Comments, thoughts?

  • Excellent blog post Mike!

    The problem is that most organizations starts a social media campaign before becoming “social”. What I mean is that integrating social media in your organization can be a great boost for your overall marketing initiative and by giving the right training to everyone at your work place can enhance the overall results of your strategy.

    As you said, social media is not about the tools, but about people. This is where many people make the mistake of first starting their social media
    campaign focusing only on the “tools” involved. I have posted about this recently, but the best way to start a social media campaign is by using
    the POST method explained here: Your campaign should always start with the people.

  • Good post as always.  I still find it staggering how many companies are “anti social media”.  Much like a raging river, it is time-consuming, energy sapping (and expensive) to fight against.  If companies rather harnessed the power of social media in the way that you suggest this would contribute to a more collaborative and innovative workforce that would benefit them greatly in the long term.

  • Shinobi-kun

    I agree.  Kindly talk a bit more on developing a sound social media strategy (I guess this is not solely confined to businesses since social media focuses on awareness, sales, &/or loyalty).

  • ReneeEverett

    It all boils down to ROI in my humble opinion.  At the end of the day a business owner needs to make a profit. So how employees use Social Media is the issue.  As you’ve mentioned before in an earlier blog, Social Media is addictive.  Business owners pay employees for a specific task. Unless they are willing and able to perform that task, they should not be in the job. I certainly agree that businesses must be “Social”.  It’s a new world and the game has changed. However, as with any ‘game’ there have to be rules of engagement. These rules need to be defined in the “Social Business” context. 

  • Anna Weideman

    Mike, this is brilliant. Thank you for the post. I am currently reviewing a corporate eBook subscription product (Books 24X7), which embraces collaboration with peers in the best possible ways. The community participation function which they call InGenius allows one to recommend a book and even a chapter, and one can add notes to paragraphs. According to a paper read by UNISA lecturer Madely du Preez, research has shown that engineers will mostly read material which has been recommended by a colleague – when it comes to technical information, engineers trust … engineers!

  • Jason Morgan


    I recently came across your blog and have been reading
    along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say
    except that I have enjoyed reading what you all have to say…


  • Jason Morgan


    I really believe you will do much better in the future I
    appreciate everything you have added to my knowledge base. Admiring the time
    and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer!


  • I just have a same thought. Before facebook people hang out with friend outside their home. In this 2-5 years people like facebook very much and need more internet ready cell phone. Next after this people will transfrom to business minded and start using social as their main stream income. Just buy thing from relative and friends. You know what I mean..

  • Viviana Ortiza

    this has been a wonderful thing to 
    know  ”
    The way information is disseminated and shared within organisations has not changed much in the last fifty years. Sure, the technologies have evolved but the hierarchies remain. Few technological advancements have been able to challenge this hierarchical mindset until social media burst onto the scene”…students and children will surely benefit from this

  • Pingback: 4 Sensible Stages For Social Media Strategy | Cerebra()

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