It’s 2012 folks! This year marks the end of era where “average-joe” intranet rules, where SOP is preferred over empowerment and engagement, and where customers keep mum about their dissatisfaction. And this year means screw business-as-usual! Organisations have to transform themselves to be social organisation or face slow-painful-death.
What is Social Organisation (a.k.a. Social Business/Enterprise)?
So what is social organisation anyway? You probably heard of the term and confuse it with social business (social enterprise) - a term made popular by a nobel price winner, Muhammad Yunus. According to Yunus, social business is a cause-driven business ala Tom Shoes (Tom Shoes commits itself to give a free pair of shoes to those in need, for every pair of shoes purchased).
Yunus’ concept on social business is beautiful. The world certainly needs Yunus’ social business model to beat poverty. Too bad, the IT and KM folks use the same term to mean organisations that use social technology, i.e. social media and social intranet, as competitive advantage (for examples, case studies, and definition, please read how IBM consulting describes social business).
For the sake of clarity, in this blog, I will use the term social organisation to refer to businesses empowered by social technology. I will avoid using the term social business/enterprise - unless I want to talk about Yunus’ version of social business (very unlikely as microfinance is not my passion. Social technology is). I suggest you do the same too.
Alas using the term social organisation doesn’t end the confusion. Some experts like two Gartner analysts: Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. Mcdonald, use the term to refer to organisations empowered by social media application to business. Others like a Forbes contributor: Fred Cavazza, use the term to refer to organisations empowered by both social media and social intranet.
So, which version of social organisation is correct? It depends on what you believe in. I believe corporate (internal) and consumer communications are converging, and thus I think social organisations have to be supported by social media and by social intranet. So I agree with Fred Cavazza’s definition of social organisation.
I also think the main purpose of social technology is to build communities. Combining these thoughts, I get the following definition of social organisation:
Social Organisation is organisation that maximises the use of social media (technology) and social intranet, to improve consumer and employee engagement and to build communities for innovation.
Why Organisations Have to Be Social Organisations?
Three big benefits underpin the need to become social organisations:
First, improved ability to engage employees, esp. the gen-Ys. Gen-Ys are moody bunch. This generation was brought up with a belief that the sky is the limit. They have a high (often unrealistic) sense of entitlement to pursue their dream/passion. The Millennials demand empowerment and bask in entrepreneurship working environment. Social organisation offers them such environment – an environment where they can be engaged and have the freedom to pursue their passion.
Second, improved ability to build communities. Social technologies are great community-building tools. They allow people with similar passion to “gather” and connect beyond the physical limitation, i.e. geographical boundaries and time difference. In other words, social technology is a catalyst for community-building. And we all know that passionate communities are breeding grounds for collective learning and innovation.
Third, ability to build relationship with social customers. Many people use social media like Facebook, Twitter, not only to improve the way they interact and live, but also to give recommendations and voice-out displeasure. Organisations would be wise to maintain presence in social media, to engage the social customers, to capture their testimonials, and to address their concern real-time.
Any thoughts? Write them down in the comment box below.
Bradley, A., J., and McDonald, M., P. (2011). The Social Organisation – Chapter 1: The Promise of Social Organisations. Harvard Business Press.
Cavazza, F. (2012). The What and How of Social Business. Forbes.
N.A. (n.d.). Social Business. IBM.
Neisser, D. (2011). Move Over Social Media; Here Comes Social Business. Fast Company.