BIZTECHBUZZ in the world of social, cognitive, IoT and startups

Happy Friday! What is a Social Business Anyway?

Please forgive me if you know this but I have had so many questions at SXSW on “What is a Social Business” that I jotted down my thoughts to share!!!

If you are 201, please skip but I am hoping this is helpful to a lot of you!!

1. What is social business?
A major change is taking place in social media these days: leading-edge companies are moving from “liking” to leading.

Social media has become an extension of traditional paid media with many companies broadcasting messages, from traditional to innovative. The next step will be much deeper as the leaders recognize that social engagement is an opportunity to redefine the client service experience, be proactive in delivering customer care and differentiate in new ways.

We call this social business. And just as social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest changed the flow of information by helping people share insights, opinions, and news with anyone anywhere, social business is changing the way people connect with companies and inside of them and how organizations succeed.

What is a social business? It’s an organization that integrates social technologies with critical business processes to improve the productivity of its workforce and create exceptional customer service.

Forrester Research estimates the market opportunity for social software is expected to rise 60% annually from 2010.

2. How is social business different from social media?
Organizations have quickly learned that a Social Business isn’t a company that just has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. A Social Business means that every department in the organization has embedded social capabilities into their traditional business processes to fundamentally impact how work gets done to create business value. A Social Business utilizes social software technology to communicate with its rich ecosystem of clients, business partners and employees.

Three shifts are creating an opportunity for social technology to create real business value

  • Pressure to build and share expertise for competitive advantage
  • Increasingly influential and vocal customers
  • Growing demand for 24/7 and mobile connectedness

Leaders in every industry are leveraging Social Business technology to disrupt their industries and create competitive advantage. They are improving productivity and unleashing innovation by tapping into the collective intelligence inside and outside their organizations. With social, they’re creating a smarter workforce.

3. What are the benefits of becoming a social business?
In a social business, employees are smarter, more loyal, and engaged because their organization uses social networks, collaboration systems and shared messaging services.

A “social” approach enables employees around the world to tap into each other’s expertise and connections. Companies can attract top talent and give employees the social tools they need to work together. Executives can layer analytics on top of social technologies to make sure their companies have the right skills and expertise to meet market demands.

A social business is also one where customer service is exceptional because the company reaches out to customers through social networks, Twitter and blogs in innovative ways and acts on the insights it pulls together about consumers. That way, customer service teams have the insights and the analytics they need to predict and resolve problems before they happen. Companies can dish up more targeted offers to customers and respond more quickly to their problems. R&D can gain new sources of inspirations and insight from customers and employees so that the products customers want are the ones that get to market.

4. Example of social business transformations.
Teach for America: Teach For America, a nonprofit organization that works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty, is using IBM’s social business platform to help bridge the gap in educational inequality for 600,000 students nationwide. Teach For America’s 40,000 teachers, alumni and employees are accessing a digital network built on IBM’s industry leading social
networking platform to share best practices and innovative teaching techniques in the classroom, across school districts, and state borders. Teach For America’s digital portal, TFANet, allows incoming and current teachers, alumni and staff to connect and share knowledge, resources and guidance to help deepen their impact as educational leaders. All 40,000 corps members, alumni and staff have access to discussion forums, blogs, wikis, videos, and user profiles to exchange information and insight across the organization’s 46 regions. IBM social networking technology has allowed Teach For America to build a network and digital experience for its teachers and alumni that includes a resource exchange with over 30,000 user-generated classroom materials focused on classroom management plans and worksheets, lesson plans, and new teaching techniques to help increase efficiency and learning in classrooms across the country. Members can access more than 600 content-specific communities, nearly 20 blogs, and 500 video clips and virtual classroom visits, providing Teach For America members with vital advice and insight from their colleagues to help advance their performance in the classroom.

LeasePlan: LeasePlan, one of the leading vehicle leasing and fleet management companies in the world, is using IBM Connections across the multi-national company of over 40 subsidiaries, in 30 countries and over 6,000 employees. LeasePlan is using IBM Connections for knowledge retention, optimizing workflow, increasing innovation, and transforming business processes. Nearly 800 communities have been formed, 400 blogs, and over 800 forums are all helping the organization decrease the amount of emails sent and received, helping the workforce easily find expertise and saving employees valuable time. Wim de Gier, LeasePlan’s Senior Global Project Manager Corporate Strategy & Development says, “LinkedPeople makes it easy to find people with specific expertise. Employees create personal profiles that include information such as their background, expertise, and links to articles or papers they have written. By searching tags, users can locate specific information and find colleagues suited to answer particular questions. Users can also find questions relating to their expertise that they can answer.”

Electrolux:  Electrolux is powered through the innovations of its employees to create products that consumers need.  Because of this, the ability for employees to access content and collaborate on the fly is crucial. Using IBM enterprise social networking software, Electrolux employees can now easily find experts and gain valuable insight from information and data. They are engaging in over 1,000 collaboration spaces, including 100 information portals managed by more than 450 editors and visited by employees 15,000 times a month and 9,000 times a day.

CEMEX:  Speeding innovation and time to market
CEMEX is the third largest building materials company in the world, with employees in 50 countries. To meet business challenges, it had to bring its global community closer together, so it created a social network initiative, called Shift, for open collaboration across its entire workforce. Within a year, over 20,000 employees were engaged, over 500 communities had formed, nine global innovation initiatives were underway — and ideas started flowing around the world among specialists in all areas and levels of the company. Wikis, blogs and communities became links between operating units around the world, and the collaboration among employees led to impressive results — for instance, the launch in under four months of the first global brand of CEMEX’s Ready Mix special product. If the same level of collaboration now enabled by Shift were conducted today through traditional meetings by phone and travel, CEMEX would be spending an additional US$0.5 to US$1 million per year.


  1. Sanchit Vir Gogia

    Great post, and very interesting use cases. Thanks for sharing.

    All conversations I’ve had in the recent past point me to a common thread around lack of clarity on decision making. In most cases, there is absolutely no clarity on who own, funds and manages the social journey for the organization.

    Will be great to chat more on this topic sometime in the future. In the meantime, do check out my thoughts on this topic –

    • Sandy Carter

      Yes I agree that decision making is a big focus in Social. It completely changes everything.

  2. Don O'Toole

    Wonderfully clear treatment of social business. Thanks, Sandy.

    I see social business as quickly and dramatically changing the relationship between developers of software (like IBM, Microsoft…) and users of software. Software has always represented a close interaction between suppliers and users. Because software is delivered through versions, releases, updates, patches, etc the relationship between supplier and user is ongoing and interactive. This relationship has become more dynamic as the delivery of software capabilities has evolved from physical media (tapes, CDs, etc) to web-based cloud delivery. Likewise as interaction between users and suppliers has evolved from relatively infrequent, telephone-based, real-time communication to continuous, web-based, asynchronous communication, the way that software developers view their interaction with users has to evolve. The development and distribution of software is clearly a social business and software companies have to adapt to the change or risk becoming uncompetitive.

    • Sandy Carter

      Great add Don. Thank you. This change in relationship is happening everywhere in the world and not just for developers but so much broader as well.

  3. Andrew Grill (@AndrewGrill)

    Sandy, I tried to simply the difference between social media and social business with a Broadway show analogy. See my post at I’d be keen to see if you agree.

    Andrew Grill
    CEO, Kred

    • Sandy Carter

      Andrew! i really like this one! thanks.

  4. Bernie Borges (@berniebay)

    Your article is a terrific primer. You and I are 100% aligned on the definition of social business. I’ve been writing about it. One key element I’ve identified is that in a social business “marketing is not a department.” See this blog post I wrote on this:

    • Sandy Carter

      Like the blog on marketing. Thanks for the reply!

  5. Bruno Gebarski (@BrunoGebarski)

    Thank you for your well articulated post on Social Business. Simplicity is the best way to synthesize complex issues and you did a great job at summarizing social business in this message. “Verticality” and hierarchy do not cut it anymore! We are living in the modern connected Babel Tower times of digital ubiquitous communication. Controlling leaders will lose the social battle raging right now and intensifying day after day. It is time for @JohnHusband “Wirearchy” to kick in in order to develop a flat army @dpontefract where information and ideation reign supreme!
    Regards from Hamburg Germany to you.

    • Sandy Carter

      Greetings back to Germany!!!! I love the thoughts and firmly believe that ideation and crowdsourcing are the new norm!

  6. Find Out More

    You have impressive knowlwdge right.

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