THE BLOG
03/05/2013 04:09 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2013

Social Business DNA: The 10 Markers

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Nilofer Merchant (@nilofer) masterfully shared a historical perspective of the use of the word "Social" and its definitions and origins as it pertains to business. Ms. Merchant outlined the background, origin and evolution of the terms social media, enterprise 2.0, social business, social innovation and social era, providing a more contextual understanding of each term.

The term social business was first created to describe how companies deliver greater value to their ecosystem to bolster meaning. The first generation social business was defined as "make profit and meaning". The term then evolved to a second generation by the Dachis Group to include a social element and overlay across the various lines of business including marketing, development, customer support and R&D. The second generation meaning of social business was "more connected (i.e. using social tools), generating greater value to all its constituents."

In our book, The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence, Brad Martin and I described a social business as an environment that feels like a small town; people know your name, doors are open and the lights are on after closing. For us, social business transformation was less about use of technology to improve connectedness, and more about a mindset of collaboration and co-creation of value. Our ability to grow our business and delight customers was a function of (order matters): culture, people, process, and lastly use of technology.

We feel that it is important for business leaders to understand social business DNA and the specific markers that validate social transformation progress. The purpose of collaboration is aimed at improving execution velocity and customer delight. It is important for business leaders to celebrate achieving alignment to purpose. Leaders must also demonstrate to all constituents their ability to drive sustainable growth, and bolster customer loyalty and commitment, as a result of collaboration.

Here are the 10 markers of a social business DNA:

  1. Pragmatic optimism - a social business defaults to 'Yes' and then rationalizes to desired disposition. A positive mindset and pragmatic optimism leads to an agile and change-accepting culture. There is no safety in the status quo.
  2. Minimal layers - a social business has more of a flat hierarchy versus a traditional business structure. The distance between a single contributor and the CEO is only a few layers. In a social business, there is a direct line of communication between the lowest level employee to senior management.
  3. Leadership is an example - in a social business, all leaders and executives are socially engaged. If your CXOs are not social, your business is not social.
  4. The best ideas win, not titles - in a social business, all information can be accessed from the top, the bottom, horizontally, vertically, and throughout the business. Ideas are like sounds, and they should be heard through the seams of the social fabric. It is in the absence of sound that, ideas find a way to die.
  5. Social people and products - every information source in the ecosystem should be utilized to help employees make better, more informed decisions. In the enterprise, sources included people and products/machines. The network social graph of an advanced social business includes both people and products.
  6. Social and business process integration - social businesses have integrated social channels into their business processes and workflows. This means integrating social media networks into CRM solutions. Social CRMs represent the first sign of social business adoption, aimed at increased visibility and execution velocity.
  7. Competition is welcomed - social businesses embrace gamification principles into driving employee, customer and business partner engagements. Gaming concepts, packaged into an overall CRM strategy, are key to unlocking organizational full potential.
  8. Safe environment - in a social business, an idea or red flag from anyone in the company can reach the CEO directly, without the middle man. In a safe, collaborative environment, failures are viewed as part of the learning experience. That said, an agile businesses fails fast by adopting a try it, fix it, try it again, iterative improvement philosophy.
  9. Shared accountability - social businesses share complete interdepartmental performance metrics as a value added service to foster collaboration. Social businesses extend certain performance metrics to customers and partners with connection to both people and products.
  10. Reflective and iterative - a social business challenges existing assumptions and communicates the desire for course corrections or pivots in advance of actual execution. In a highly collaborative business, experiments are welcomed and innovation is not about better sameness.

We also asked our Twitter network to help us define a social business. So was asked: "You're a social business if ___." We received brilliant answers from Twitter and listed a few below:

  • @Ekaterina: You're a social business when you empower every single employee to be social and engage socially both internally and externally
  • @MobileAberdeen: You're a Social Business if you understand that to lead is to follow
  • @rwang0: You are a social business if you care about your relationships and stop calling yourself a social business. #socbiz
  • @SteveGutzler: You're a social media business if you enter the world of your customers with sincere conversations.
  • @Michael_Lytle: You're a Social Business if you are able to deliver on promises while listening NOW and looking AHEAD.
  • @LauriRottmayer: You're a social business if you engage with your customers across all platforms.
  • @pennyherscher: You're a social business when you deeply understand your customer's customer and their care abouts.
  • @japewang: Engage and serve your customers any time, any place, anywhere.
  • @smaxson: If your business, your employees and your customers co-create mutual value using social technologies
  • @maitran: If your customers are at the center of your business. listen, engage, connect, deliver, delight
  • @LaceySnr: You're a social business if you do don't just reply 'please phone customer support' to Twitter inquiries.
  • @MarkBTowler: You're a social business if you welcome & encourage interaction from your employees AS WELL as your customers!
  • @JamesMSama: You're a social business if your fans feel connected to you on more than a consumer level - but as a loyal friend.
  • @renatogalisteu: You're a social business if you understand that social is the new way to find / bring value to your business
  • @recborg: You're a Social Business if you understand that influence is not just a number.
  • @zacharyjeans: Social Businesses will develop a CDO, Chief Digital Officer, in concert w/ existing C-Level roles.
  • @ryan_t_hall21: You're a social business if every employee has a voice, where great ideas are shared and acted upon, not spoken and forgotten
  • @JWLevitt: You're a social business if you are truly engaged with your customers, rather than using SM in a reactionary way.
  • @IamKalpesh: you are a social business if you are part of the conversation...online AND offline