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It's All About Collaboration

Posted by on December 21, 2011

Regardless of how you want to spin “social business,” “social enterprise,” “social collaboration,” “enterprise collaboration,” or any other new term that comes along, it always comes down to collaboration.  At the end of the day that’s really what this is about, it’s not about being social it’s about being collaborative and applying collaborative technologies, strategies, ideas, and concepts to how businesses operate today and in the future.

What we are now calling a “social business” or a “social enterprise” are far cries from what these concepts and terms were created to mean.  They have been marketed and spun to death to take away from their philanthropic meanings and have been intentionally mutated like a virus into something that is being sold to organizations with promises of…improved collaboration.

The term “social” is simply coming from “social media” but now stuck onto other more “business” sounding phrases.  You can imagine why it can sometimes become a bit frustrating when I keep hearing about and reading about “how to become a social business” when in the back of mind I’m thinking, “who the heck cares about being social?  we need to become collaborative.”  The world “social” itself doesn’t really imply any type of business value, in fact it implies the exact opposite with casual chat, bantering, and playing around with tools such as Facebook and Twitter. On the other hand I’ve always believed that “collaboration” has inherent business value, it’s about two or more people working together to achieve a goal.

A social business was first defined by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus as a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective within the highly regulated marketplace of today.

A social enterprise is defined as an organization that applies business strategies to achieving philanthropic goals.

I should point out that I include myself in this mix as well.  I mean after all it’s a bit tough to go against the grain when you have large companies pitching the concept of “social business,” with seemingly endless marketing budgets.  So honestly sometimes I’m a bit torn between going with what I believe in vs going with what everyone says.  Of course employees at most of these companies are going to stick with “social” anything because that’s what their paid to do.  I’m exposed to so much content around “social” something that sometimes it’s hard not to even doubt myself.

Deep down I like to think that regardless of the jargon anyone uses we all fundamentally believe that collaboration is the impetus behind what we are all talking about and trying to create, after all I truly believe that collaborative organizations can make the world a better place.

This was one of the debates I had when naming my book.  In the end I settled for “The Collaborative Organization” because that is what I really believe this is all about.

Curious to hear your thoughts, observations, frustrations and viewpoints.  I know I’m not the only one with these thoughts.

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  • Anonymous

    Your general point strikes a sympathetic chord with me. I get the impression that you are talking primarily here about social as it applies to large organizations, and therefore to lots of people involved in various ways in the activities of those organizations. My own interest is with small, mostly local business. For the small business the primary relationship they are concerned with from the marketing/pr point of view is with their customers and prospects, and I’m not so sure the term “collaboration” is the best term to descibe what they should be trying to accomplish with social media. Could be… I just haven’t thought about it that way.

    What I have noticed is that many social media advisors focus on “engagement” as the principal objective of social media. This also seems an inadequate reason for why a business should get seriously involved with social media. By “engagement” SM people usually seem to mean having “conversations” with people – mostly encouraging comments and replying to them, as if this is supposed to result in building new relationships and magically increasing sales.

    In reality the “engagement” level of even wildly popular Facebook Pages (for example) – ones with millions of fans – is very, very low. How could it be otherwise? Even posts that get hundreds of comments are hardly scratching the surface of the large mass of fans that brand has. Not to mention that the “conversation” is usually dominated by a few hard core “engagers”.

    There must be something more. As you say of the word “social”, the word “engagement” itself doesn’t really imply any type of business value.

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  • Gordon Milton

    I think there is a load of rubbish being put forward about how to use social media, either for social or business purposes.

    I think one needs to look at how we network for social reasons and network for business in the real world and apply the same principles to the virtual processes.

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