Why I’m staking my career on the growth of social business

andrew-presenting-squareI have been working in “social” for some time. I worked out recently that I was “blogging” before it was even called blogging!

The @Forum section of my personal website (seen here in an archive.org snapshot from March 2001) was providing my views on the new digital economy some time ago.

Back in 2009, I joined Visible Technologies in London, and as many know I was the CEO of Kred from 2011 – 2013. This was the formal part of my “social media” career where I provided tools and advice to blue chip clients on how to measure and manage their social media presence.

My move to IBM in October 2013 was a deliberate shift from social media to social business, and it is important to explain the difference.

I define a social business in the following way…

A social business is an organization
whose culture and systems
encourage networks of people
to create business value

Note the words I have highlighted: culture – people – business value. No mention of fans, followers, likes, Facebook or Twitter – just real business value.

This what my C-Suite clients want to hear. When anyone mentions social, they immediately think Facebook and Twitter and the conversation and the preconceptions become those related to social media and not social business.

You can see me explain my shift towards social business in the video below, shot by the Drum as I spoke with Jen Faull while we drove around the streets of London in the back of a black cab.

So back to the title of this post – why am I now betting my career on social business and not social media?

I passionately believe that the future of social now lies in companies that realise they need to become a social business and not just “play” with social.

I am now attending meetings where clients have specifically asked me to present to them on social collaboration.

Social collaboration is where internal tools such as IBM Connections, Yammer, Chatter and Jive are used to connect and enhance companies.  For me, internal collaboration is the new way of working, and in the future your value to an organisation won’t be what you know, it will be what you share.

Before I joined IBM, I posted some lengthy reviews on a report from my good friend Brian Solis at Altimeter group on “the evolution of social business”, and it was this report that absolutely convinced me that the future of social was not in the “media” part, but the “business part”.

The opportunity for those companies that become a true social business are way beyond having 1 million likes on Facebook.

A social business uses social to hire and retain the right people, it uses social to ensure that complaints on social business get to the right department.

A social business doesn’t rely on email, they collaborate in real time and share the knowledge of the whole company with each other.

A social business knows instantly how to find subject matter experts – because they make themselves easy to find.

Becoming a social business is not easy though. Far beyond simply putting up a Twitter page, buying a social media monitoring tool and having a social media command centre, the move to becoming a social business involves a significant culture change.

One of the attractions of joining IBM is that we really do “eat our own cooking” when it comes to social business and the culture changes.  Every day I see the impact of how being a social business makes us more efficient and delivers incremental value to our clients.

In pretty much every client meeting, I recount the story of how IBM became a social business, with hundreds of thousands of people using our internal social network on a daily basis, and how for many of us, social is becoming the norm not the exception.

Clients respect that for such a large and diverse organisation as IBM to be embracing the power of social business, then they can learn from our own journey as we help them change and become an organisation that collaborates and shares by default.

In my career, I have been fortunate to work with some amazing people, and also lucky enough to have been ahead of the curve on web, online, mobile and social trends.

Following my instincts, I am now betting the next stage of my career on social business, and I think it’s a pretty safe bet.

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  • jingo27

    Great article Andrew. I have to 100% agree that the “business” portion is where a lot of agencies are still getting it wrong. CxO’s dont understand followers and likes. They understand ROI and other business metrics. This is the language of social business!

    • Yes! It’s all about using the right language.