How do you build a successful social enterprise?

What Is Social Business?

In social business the application of social technologies as a formal component of business processes revolves around understanding how your customers or stakeholders connect to your business and how you reshape your business to understand, accept, and innovate based on their involvement. Social business is about integrating all of your business functions: customer support, marketing, the executive team, and more. It means doing this for the purpose of creating collaborative innovation and engagement at meaningful, measurable levels tied clearly and directly to your company’s business objectives.

Social Businesses Are Participative

Ultimately, social business is about participation with and by your customers and stakeholders in pursuit of an organization that is strongly connected to them through participative and collaborative processes. As a result, a social business is often better able to respond to marketplace dynamics and competitive opportunities than a traditionally organized and managed firm.

This may occur through participation in a social community, support or discussion forum, or any of a variety of other social applications and contexts. The efforts leading to the creation of a social business often begin with identifying or creating an opportunity for participation with (or between) customers, employees, or stakeholders within the community or similar social applications.

Build Around Customer Participation

Regardless of who the community is intended to serve, strong communities are best built around the things that matter deeply to the members of the community: passions, lifestyles, causes, and similar fundamentally aligned needs. This applies whether the audience is primarily business B2B communities like Element 14’s engineering community or Dell’s Take Your Path” small business owners community form around very specific shared needs common to small business owners or a personal-interest B2C or nonprofit or cause-related community.

Participation Is Driven by Passion

Getting the activity focused on something larger than your brand, product, or service is critical to the successful development of social behavior within the customer or BUILD A SOCIAL BUSINESS  stakeholder base and as well within the firm or organization itself. After all, if narrowly defined business interests take center stage if the social interaction is built purely around business objectives, then what will the customers of that business find useful? What’s in it for them?

In Search of a Higher Calling

The surest way to avoid this trap is to appeal to passion, lifestyle, or cause in other words, to anchor your initiatives in something larger than your brand, product, or service: Appeal to a higher calling in a manner of speaking, one that is carefully selected to both attract the people you want to associate with and to provide a natural home or connection to your brand, product, or service.

$pend Your Way to a Social Presence

The appeal to a higher calling to a lifestyle, passion, or cause is what drives organic participation and growth in online social communities. The payoffs are lower ongoing expenses and a higher degree of stickiness and participation and advocacy for the community. Given the central role established for the higher social object, a question arises here: What is it that powers social marketing applications, communities, and sites which lack a cause, passion, or lifestyle connection as seen in programs like Pepsi’s The Juice? The answer is typically spending. This is not to overlook the great creative work that goes into promotional campaigns, but rather to note that spend-driven programs versus purpose or values-aligned programs will often lag in the organic growth that truly powers social media and the waves of activity that occur on the Social Web.

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