Social Business – a history defined

sbengineIt seems that everyone is talking about social business. Whether it’s IBM launching its SmartCloud for social business, or marketers developing their social business strategies for 2012, the term ‘social business’ means different things to different people. So what does social business actually mean? Guest author Andy Hewitt of Global Dawn offers some perspectives.

We define social business as the creation of shared value for everybody in a business value chain, including the customer and the communities they live in, online or offline. For someone in technology, social business may mean free software, platform businesses or games. For a marketer, it could mean loyalty programmes or social network marketplaces. There is also a CSR angle – social business might apply to an ethical, value-driven business.

Social business isn’t new – it has in fact been around for the past thirty years and continues to evolve. Social business has evolved from multiple sources and is taking business in a new direction.

My company Global Dawn has produced an explanatory infographic to niftily sum up social business over the past three decades, showing all the routes that business has travelled to become more social. More than just being about social media, it’s also about values, customers, collaboration, involvement and engagement.

From the development of micro-finance to crowdsourcing to today’s customer ecosystems, shared value and social business is all about empowering people and creating a more collaborative human-centred business environment.

socialbusinessinfographic

The Technology Stream

A strong tradition running through social business and dating back to the free software movement and then open source is the idea of contribution, specifically making a contribution to the ecosystem you work within. This tradition has helped build the web as we know it today into a giant, free collaborative resource.

The Marketing Stream

Another strong tradition begins with multi-level marketing and loyalty programs. The web has enhanced the capacity of smart firms to build loyalty by engaging more deeply with customers and by interacting in more equal terms, creating a two-way conversation between marketers and customers.

The Social Stream

Finally, there is the tradition of social itself, beginning with the micro-finance initiatives that were designed to replace development aid in what used to be called the third world. That tradition has informed open innovation, the large mobile ecosystems that flourished first in Kenya, and then crowdsourcing.

As we can see, social business is no buzzword but rather a long tradition that has evolved through the decades. However, we can expect to see many more organisations coming forward, claiming to be social business over the coming 12 months.

Social business is about more than just engagement across social channels such as Twitter and Facebook. A true social business will create shared value for everyone, empowering the people it reaches in a valuable way.

Andy Hewitt is Global Dawn’s Director of Customer Propositions. Global Dawn works with brands to offer bespoke software-as-a-service (SaaS) social business platform packages which enable brands to optimise customer marketing engagement. Andy is responsible for defining the Global Dawn proposition for customers as well as the functionality of its Social Business Engine. Contact: andrew.hewitt@globaldawn.co.

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+.