Elements of The Social Business

This is a blog post I wrote for the Dachis Group blog today.

In the almost two years I’ve been with Dachis Group there is one question that I’ve been asked over and over again. “What is social business?” I’m sure my colleagues have had the same experience. The challenge I have is that social business is comprehensive in nature, and therefore defies trite explanations.

My dilemma would be made simpler if “social business” were just another name for something you already know, like “social media marketing” or “enterprise 2.0″ or (god forbid) “knowledge management.” But it’s not. It’s a term for something new and different, and our journey is so early that I don’t think any company would declare victory on being a social business in 2011. Many of our clients are definitely taking the right steps, however.

The social organizations that I have an opportunity to interact with typically have some specific elements. They include:

  • Organization. A social business will look less like a top-down, command-and-control structured organization, and more like a flexible mesh network. The mesh is empowered to act and conduct business, not needing to wait for orders from the commander-in-chief when a target is in the crosshairs. The social organization might appear podular.
  • Leadership. Most companies are over-managed, but social businesses are led by talented and visionary people. Charlene Li does an excellent job of presenting the case for open leadership and letting go of control.
  • Social. At the end of the day, businesses are made up of people. Do you interview them to determine traits like sharing and collaboration, or are you still hiring for skills? The millennial Gen Y that is entering the workforce is 80 million people, and their brains are wired differently than other generations. They literally have larger amygdalas, which makes them more social.
  • Holistic. People are at the heart of every element of the enterprise ecosystem. Social organizations pay attention to all of their constituents, understand the relationships between them, and how strong or weak the connections between them are.
  • Engagement. The old school ideas of marketing stress frequency, reach, and a multi-channel approach. Hit them with our messages as many times as possible, in as many places as possible. Rise above the noise, right? The social business isn’t trying to shout the loudest, but finding ways to engage with customers and other constituents.
  • Connected. Are the people in the company connected together, in real time? Does the CEO blog (even if it’s just internally)? Are there easy and open ways for people to discuss, share, and participate in the planning, managing, and controlling of the business?

What other elements of a social business have you seen?


  1. Great post!

    Maybe this simply goes without saying, but the single most important element that makes a social business is a connected and instrumented customer base.

    A good social business has created an environment through which its customers can communicate with each other and with the business itself. This is achieved by creating social identities for the business and having it actively participate in dialog carried out within the various social mediums.

    A great social business is one that has successfully instrumented the social platforms in order to know what its customers are saying to each other about them and their products. Such instrumentation can reveal valuable knowledge such as the identification of key influencers or the detection of topic trends to which the business can react or turn into opportunity.