Time for social business – beyond the confines of existing definitions

Social business or Enterprise 2.0 – or a different term altogether? Which term best covers the conglomeration of social media, non-commercial Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0?

The developments of the past few years demand a new term, a new category. The terms we have so far only cover certain aspects of this new world. In the past, Enterprise 2.0 has focused too much on the use of Web 2.0 technologies within a corporation. Concepts associated with collaboration outside the company and communication with customers and partners have been neglected in the definition thus far.

sCRM, or social customer relationship management, is a term that attempts to cover this latter dimension. It defines the shift in collaborating with customers made possible by social media, but it does not cover the internal aspects. Social media focuses on the marketing aspect too much, i.e. on how companies can apply social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to market their products and services more successfully. None of the current terms and definitions really cover the shift that Web 2.0-based social media, tools and behaviour bring to communication and collaboration in companies, between companies and with customers and business partners. We are in a phase of transformation that has been brought about by social Web 2.0 tools and the Internet with its capacity as an engine for transparency.

This is why we need a general term that covers all these dimensions. I expressed the same opinion on Quora during an intense debate triggered by Jim Worth entitled “What are the distinctions between Social Business and Enterprise 2.0?” Various leading lights in the 2.0 community – among them Stowe Boyd, Sameer Patel and Ross Dawson – took part in the debate. On ReadWriteWeb, Klint Finley brought up the term “social enterprise” as a possible candidate, though he withdrew it almost immediately because of the other meaning this term already has – that of doing business to achieve social change.

Yet social enterprise is not the only term that has that meaning; social business does too. Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of The Grameen Bank, defines social business as using entrepreneurship to tackle social problems. Wikipedia gives the following brief definition:

Social business endeavours to solve society’s social and ecological problems. The underlying concept aims to make capitalism sustainable.

What I had written on the subject of social business received several critical posts referring to this other meaning. In my opinion there is also another, perhaps typically German, problem with this term. When German managers hear and interpret the term “social” they automatically, whether consciously or not, think of “socialist,” planned economy and all-powerful works councils. Combining social with business is therefore problematic in Germany. One thing German managers have understood is that Facebook and Twitter, smartphones and tablets, digital natives and residents, are making customers in the era of Web 2.0 more judicious and Enterprise 1.0 employees more self-confident and giving them aspirations to transform their enterprises into an Enterprise 2.0…

As outlined above, there are many reasons for having a kind of meta-term. We are currently in a phase of transformation in which the forms of communication, collaboration and behaviour that we have learned from Web 2.0 are having a huge impact on the business world and on the way in which companies (and public administrations) do business with their customers, partners and citizens.

The time for social business has come … even if we have to define it very carefully ‒ especially but not only in Germany ‒ and even though we have to live with two interpretations of it.

Comment: I am starting to republish some my blog postings originally written in German in English language. Hope you do find them valuable. And sorry, if language is not perfect. A ‘Kraut’ writing in English is always funny, I guess. This one is originally from January 2011 and I selected it by purpose after the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, which took place in Boston last week, Obviously we seem to be on the move from Enterprise 2.0 to Social Business …

Posted from Digital naiv – Stefan63’s Blog

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