Prospering in the new digital economy requires you re-think about how you approach your business, your team and your customers.
Social Business means more than Social Media
To many businesses “doing social” means posting some ads and pictures on their Facebook page. Social media is our first glimpse of how social technology is going to change how we interact and work together, but it is just the beginning.
The invention of the Gutenberg press in 1450 led to the renaissance and enlightenment, transforming human culture forever. Today the Internet and social media are fostering even greater revolutions in business, culture and society which are certain transform our lives forever. The implications for business are dramatic – previously successful business models are in decline or collapse, whereas unheard of or previously non-existent companies and even whole industries are growing rapidly.
Social business isn’t just using social media at work – it’s a change in how we communicate, why we do what we do and how we relate to colleagues, clients and society at large.
Social businesses are more engaged with their community and marketplace. Rather than just broadcasting a “buy now” message, they ask what people want, what they need, and how they can be what their customers want them to be – and then they listen and are prepared to change in response to what they hear.
Social Business isn’t new!
In some ways social business is a return to a way of life and doing business that was more common when we lived in villages, and everyone knew everyone else.
This is in stark contrast to today’s world, where most people “know” celebrities, TV characters and big brands better than they know their neighbours, yet don’t have any influence or personal communication with them. A social business has a two-way dialogue with their customers and their market, with social media the technology which makes it possible.
Social Business changes companies and how they do business
Once a business starts listening to customers and wider community, the approach to business will change as they learn what their market really wants, likes, needs, and also what they hate or avoid.
Ignoring social interaction means companies can be ruthless, self-serving and deliberately ignorant of the needs of others, as long as they serve their shareholders and keep making sales. Things are changing fast – increased accountability and more powerful consumers means that companies which pursue their own gain at the expense of society or the environment are quickly named, shamed and lose customers and revenue.
The future of business
Meanwhile, smart business leaders are adopting a new approach that combines the benefits of capitalism with respect for society and others; and the approach is working. This growing community of “social businesses” is proving that it is possible to excel in the business area by operating with logical self-interest, but also building concern for customers, society and the planet into their corporate makeup.
As ethical and fair trade practices become more widespread, businesses which persist with antisocial behavior are beginning to be penalised by the market.
People are becoming ever more concerned about the ethics of companies they buy from – and the transparency offered by social media places companies under constant public scrutiny.
Social is for internal customers as well
Social business practices also offer great benefits within companies as well. Improved communication and greater job satisfaction and employee retention are possible as technology transforms work practices which have been with us since the industrialisation of the workplace. For example, new software tools allow a whole team to work on the same page, even when geographically remote.
Likewise, social media means that the CEO of a company can learn from the lowliest employee – to discover why a simple problem is impeding production or why customers are unhappy, breaking a deadlock as old as corporations.
By listening to its market, and harnessing the collective intelligence of a team, a social business can develop a powerful voice for its brand. With the right tools and strategy, they can become an influential brand in their market – establishing the state of the art, and leading their industry.
Become social or disappear
Failing to respond to the social business change puts companies at risk of obsolescence. If they don’t start communicating well internally and externally, by the time they realise they have a problem, more agile, responsive and engaged competitors have already seized their market.
Social business practices aren’t a panaceæ, but they are essential business habits, tools and values which help companies adapt as our world changes faster than ever before.
Is your business a social business?
How do you see these changes impacting your industry? Let us know in the comments below.