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Explaining Social Business in a Way that Makes Sense

Posted by on October 24, 2010

Quick note, the picture is supposed to be of something “weird” that people will have a hard time explaining, it’s my analogy to “social.”

This past week has been a flurry of conferences and events.  I’ve literally had hundreds of conversations with so many people that it started to get a bit exhausting.  I’ve also had the opportunity to LISTEN to a lot of conversations.  I was really interested to hear more about how people describe and talk about “social” anything.  Whether it’s social media, social CRM, the social customer, or social business; it didn’t matter.  I just wanted to hear how these terms were being used in context and what the reactions were of people who were on the receiving end of hearing those terms.  I’ve heard dozens of explanations and descriptions that were used to describe pretty much the same concept or idea.

When discussions around “what is social X” or “why is social X important” came up I heard discussions that ranged from talking about a specific tool to talking about how some companies are making money on twitter to blogging and Facebook strategies to, you name it.  In all of the conversations that I either participated in or listened to it was never really clear what anything was or why anything “social” was that important.  I started to wonder if people felt that way when they talked to me about social business.  I spend a lot of time with folks that understand social business, so when I talk to them it’s easy, everything just makes sense because we are both on the same page.  That’s great, but that’s not my audience.  I need to make sure that everything I say makes sense to everyone.  Literally anyone that I talk to about social business should walk away saying, “ya that makes complete sense.”  This has been part of the new effort that we have been undertaking over at Chess Media Group.  We’re trying to make social business easy to understand for anyone an everyone.

I did a little test over the past few weeks and tried explaining social business a few different ways to see which explanations made the most sense with folks I was speaking to.  By far, the following explanation seemed to have made the most sense with everyone I talked to.

Here’s what I tell people.

The same business problems and challenges that companies were faced with 5 years ago, 10 years ago, or 50 years ago still exist today.  This hasn’t changed.  What has changed is how organizations solve these same business problems but in the context of how people have changed their behaviors around how they purchase, who they trust, how they consume information, how they interact, where they spend their time , and what they expect from who they interact with (and yes, a few others).

That’s it, simple?  Makes sense?  Any questions?

I realize that sometimes I might say or write about something that makes some people say, “WTF?”  So, if that ever happen by all means call me out on it and make me explain it.  If you don’t understand what I’m saying then chances are that many other people don’t either.

So here’s the deal, you ask questions about doesn’t make sense and I’ll do what I can do explain anything in a way that makes sense


  • Jacob you nailed the definition! The social business is hampered because the organizational structures of the last 50 years have not changed. The way people want to solve problems, service customers, and innovate has changed. They no longer want to be widgetized into a company. They want a fluid way to solve and innovate within their companies. People do not care about org charts or titles anymore. They care about making the company better and their customers happy. But the org charts do not support the Customer Service rep helping a marketing campaign and a marketing campaign helping the HR dept. The big road blocks title legacies and people being strapped with getting initiatives done and making people better. This has to change and social business is that path, but org charts and people management has to change for this to really see the companies change. What do you think?

  • Dear Jacob,

    I'm not a social business expert at all but I'm very interested in knowing more. Indeed, I'm working on how IT departments can be more business oriented and less “technology-only” oriented. So I'm a good candidate to test your definition 😉

    Your definition is very good because it explains the real reason behind social business. It explains the objective instead of the means and I think a lot of people mix both. You do not enter a social business strategy because it's cool to be on Facebook…

    The only thing I miss in your definition is a kind of “scope” (I don't know if it's the correct term in English for what I have in mind). I mean something enabling me to recognize what is not social business. Maybe it's just some words about the term “social”.

    Thanks for you great post!