Is ‘social business’ the new black?

What does “social business” mean? I’ve been wondering this since reading about the acquisition of Headshift by US agency Dachis Group announced this morning UK time.

Among the flowery prose in the press release is this phrase that strikes me as the most significant fact about this union:

[...] The acquisition provides Dachis Group the ability to meet the increasing demand for larger and more complex engagements with global companies striving to create value through the use of social technologies in order to better engage their customers, foster more efficient workforce collaboration and enhance and optimize business partner relationships.

Some spontaneous discussion arose on Twitter earlier in which the phrase “social business” was bandied about.

amayfield-socialbusinessI first saw it mentioned by Antony Mayfield, prompting my response to beware of “starting a jargon meme.”

Yet think about the term: social business. I’ve not heard it used much, beyond mention almost in passing by some people who, I guess, think it might sound rather important.

The only agency or consulting firm I have seen using the phrase consistently is Headshift, a company I’ve long regarded as one of the few, out there on the edge, in understanding the influence social media has on how large organizations work.

So how does Headshift describe “social business”? Here’s what they say on their website on a page under the heading “Social Business Design“:

[...] The rise of the social web has taught us a lot about how we can significantly reduce the costs of collaboration and co-ordination inside businesses, and demonstrated the power of iterative, evolutionary processes driven by real-time data and user feedback.

We need to apply these lessons inside the enterprise to improve the way corporate IT supports business change and aligns with business needs. We need smarter, simpler, social tools, with the same quality of user experience we have come to expect from the web, that help people get things done.

That sounds far more focused than “social media,” a term which, in my view, is all about tools and channels rather than business issues, organization change and behaviour shifts – things that actually matter to organizations from a strategic perspective.

And one other view from the Twitter chat this morning with which I firmly agree came from Will McInnes who said:

[...] I think social business is [a] much bigger category than digital media.

If that means a clear focus on helping organizations (large and/or global ones in particular) address genuine business issues with solutions that scale, rather than looking only at how to use the tools and channels, then Will’s on to something.

Drew Benvie has some good points in a post earlier, especially this:

[...] it’s plain to see that a company’s behaviour in these digital times is not just communication. It’s customer service, research & development, decision-making,

I expect to see the term “social business” suddenly being used a lot, especially by consultants. I just hope it isn’t just the same old song with a new tune dressed up for big-corporate appeal.

Could it really be the new black?

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About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.