Social enterprise: Is it dead or alive?

Moderated by Lawrence Dignan | February 18, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: Dion Hinchcliffe and Brian Sommer face-off on the role of social media in business.

Brian Sommer

Brian Sommer

Dead

or

Alive

Dion Hinchcliffe

Dion Hinchcliffe

Best Argument: Dead

48%
52%

Audience Favored: Alive (52%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Simply evolution

Some would have us count email, messaging and some collaborative technologies as proof positive that businesses are becoming social enterprises. Most of these are evolutionary extensions of older technologies businesses have used for decades (like a phone call or chalkboard). I’d argue that businesses have always been social enterprises and the new technologies only make more of that happen. Social enterprise is not a ground-breaking, earth shattering transformation that is permanently altering business as we know it, it’s simply more evolution.

Sure, embracing social content makes sense for consumer marketing types and recruiting functions but it's a tougher sale to a company that stamps out metal products used in industrial products. Remember, social is a tool for some firms. It's additive for them and not transformative. It's that additive aspect that makes it an option for some companies and not a competitive prerequisite.

Social enterprise isn’t dead or dying. It’s just this tech-driven space hoping a blockbuster product comes along that finally makes it the killer business app of all time. It hasn’t happened yet as social enterprise is more of a journey than a ‘thing’, ‘product’ or new process.

All-time high

Rumors of the death of the social enterprise are greatly exaggerated. In fact, use of social media by businesses -- whether that's for internal collaboration purposes or for external marketing and customer support -- is currently at an all time high. What's perhaps at its lowest point though, is the hype itself.

The reality that social media is a very different way of working has now sunk in, yet because of this its application by organizations is often still superficial. This also means that social business is still just getting started. More and more success stories accumulate every day, even as some became disillusioned by early experiments that didn't quickly match the levels of the flowery rhetoric employed in the early days.

What is happening now, however, is the useful -- and inevitable -- process of maturity of the social business industry. If anything is dead, it's the notion that our businesses can simply continue as usual, using out-dated channels of communication to achieve their goals.

 

Talkback

21 comments
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  • Social Media = Narcissism

    Multiple researches show that happy pictures and stories bring negative reactions in people. Maybe it's jealousy - not sure. But friends feel obligated to "like" friend's photos and stories and then they post their photos to show they have a life too.

    All business can bring into this unhealthy environment is advertisement - the ultimate reason for being there in a first place. What's the point? Do you like feeling kind of jealous and be advertised on at the same time?
    -nihilist-
    Reply 5 Votes I'm for Dead
  • Perhaps in certain types of businesses.

    Perhaps in certain types of businesses, this may make sense. ZDNet would likely benefit, as it's essentially a group of bloggers who like to share things and don't live in the same office.

    But there are also businesses where it would be more of a distraction than a help.

    This is one of those things where it depends on what you do and what your corporate culture is. It's certainly not a cure-all.

    In fact, it rather bothers me that ZDNet sees a lot of things as a magic bullet, a cure-all-solution that is supposedly right for every business, everywhere. Personally, I think that's far from the truth: Some things aren't right for all businesses, everywhere.

    Things like BYOD and Big Data and yes, even "the cloud" fall under "it's not right for everybody." Maybe helpful to some businesses, but not helpful to all businesses.
    CobraA1
    Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
  • ALIVE...and well. Some just don't "get it".

    I think the biggest challenge is around the meaning and it's meaning for each Enterprise. Most large enterprises could eaisly benefit from more Social connectivity.
    smfrazz
    Reply Vote I'm for Alive
    • Not quite dead yet...

      but I think the idea that it was going to create this vast transformative process in business is pretty well dead. It has it uses, and they are mostly niche uses.

      The basic premise, that businesses can benefit from increased inter-communication, doesn't work that well in theory. The amount of information I already have to know to keep myself running in my own space is VAST. I don't have time to trawl around learning things outside my own area. When I need something I go to an expert in that domain and sort it out.

      In fact, generally speaking, for myself and almost everyone I work with, the trick is getting LESS information. Getting the right informational filters up so that you aren't stuck dredging through useless information and can focus in on what is needed.
      SlithyTove
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
    • Hmmm ...

      Most forms of social media, whether personal or business focused, are a big time waster. They should not be confused, in the main, with true communication.

      The landscape of electronic social interaction is buried in mounds of sludge, dross and banal banter, back-slapping ... and a huge amount of HYPE. All the "recommends", "follows", "likes" prove very little about a company. Do we all really believe it? "You recommend me and I'll recommend you". It mostly means diddly-squat.

      Most real business comes from direct referrals from existing clients and from real-life face-to-face networking. Do a great job ... better than expected ... the best advertising you could ever do.
      Integratefulness
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
  • It is a process, that's why it's alive.

    Opening statements are neither contradicting nor opposing each other.

    Social Enterprise is the one that encourages and benefits from collaboration and openness. Be it higher rate of knowledge sharing and re-utilisation, new ideas or just sheer speed of cross-matrix communication.

    Moreover, most enterprises are bound to get 'social' as their employees and customer are becoming increasingly 'social' in their communication habits. It's a strong wind and spitting against it can only last for so long. A bolt-stamping factory is usually quick to become social-aware once it discovers it's former employees started a group 'ACME boss should die in pain'. You get the idea.

    Social Enterprise is indeed an evolutionary step. Viewed as such it can be either redundant or essential to survival. My take is it's essential since 'businesses are people' as the saying goes.

    I'd say the only thing dying is buzz word, the concept itself is alive and well. It just turned out that the biggest problem is not in the technical means, but in corporate culture and business processes.
    Pavel R.
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Alive
    • thoughts

      @"pavel@..."

      "Social Enterprise is the one that encourages and benefits from collaboration and openness."

      So does walking across the office and saying "hi." You know, the way we've been doing it since the dawn of time. Of course, it will depend on how the business is structured. A business where not everybody shares a single office will benefit more from social enterprise than a business where everybody's pretty much within walking distance.

      "Be it higher rate of knowledge sharing and re-utilisation, new ideas or just sheer speed of cross-matrix communication."

      When one uses phrases "cross-matrix communication," I have to wonder if one is actually trying to sound intelligent or just pulling random words out of a dictionary.

      Basically "communication" is what the real meaning of this sentence is. So many words for a single concept.

      "It's a strong wind and spitting against it can only last for so long."

      Eh, whatever. It's a business decision, not an irresistible trend. In fact, I'm pretty much cynical of this attitude that everything everywhere is an irresistible trend.

      "A bolt-stamping factory is usually quick to become social-aware once it discovers it's former employees started a group 'ACME boss should die in pain'. You get the idea."

      A business should certainly be aware of what's happening in the social space, but that's different from "social enterprise," where every employee is given access to some sort of social tool.

      My take is it's certainly useful in the right business, but needs will vary from business to business.
      CobraA1
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • why do I need a subject in a comment?!

        "So does walking across the office and saying "hi."

        — Business benefits beyond HR of that aren't clear to me. Saying "hi" doesn't communicate any information and has nothing to do with openness. Even when so, knowledge transferred face-to-face is explicit or tacit thus is not a tangible asset.

        "When one uses phrases "cross-matrix communication," I have to wonder if one is actually trying to sound intelligent or just pulling random words out of a dictionary."

        — Should I apologize for using dictionary words? What I meant was not just communication as mentioned casual "Hi", but actually cross-functional, cross-disciplinary communication. You know, when engineers are able to talk to artists and all.

        "Eh, whatever. It's a business decision, not an irresistible trend."

        — I believe customers and employees becoming deeply engaged in social media practices IS an irresistible trend.

        "A business should certainly be aware of what's happening in the social space, but that's different from "social enterprise," where every employee is given access to some sort of social tool."

        — Definition is where it gets vague. Social Media monitoring, devising and enforcing policies — those are all efforts I take as enterprises becoming 'more social'.

        Communication habits of absolute majority of employees and customers in _any business in 10 years_ will require some major shift.
        Pavel R.
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
        • Missing the point a bit . . .

          "Saying 'hi' doesn't communicate any information and has nothing to do with openness."

          Missing the point a bit. I'm basically talking about in-person communication in general, not just the word "hi."

          "Even when so, knowledge transferred face-to-face is explicit or tacit thus is not a tangible asset."

          Communication is not always meant to be a tangible asset. In fact, doing so can often be counterproductive, as it opens up issues such as privacy and security. A lot of people may be less open if they know their communications are being recorded. And sometimes people just want to talk about the weather or whatnot. It would be rather wasteful to treat all communication everywhere as a tangible asset.

          "Should I apologize for using dictionary words?"

          Which dictionary?

          http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cross-matrix?s=t

          Actually, you invented that phrase "cross-matrix", from what I can tell, as it's not actually in the dictionary.

          "You know, when engineers are able to talk to artists and all."

          This has never been an issue. All types of communication are "cross-matrix" by this definition. I've never had troubles using any form of communication with people outside my field.

          It's not as if my phone or email stops working just because I've called or emailed an artist. Whether phone, email, facebook, instant messenger, or whatever, it works regardless of whoever I'm talking to.

          "I believe customers and employees becoming deeply engaged in social media practices IS an irresistible trend."

          You're entitled to your own personal beliefs, I suppose. As is everybody else.

          "Definition is where it gets vague."

          Too vague. I'm not fond of overly vague statements. They're not useful. Often they can be twisted to mean anything.

          "Communication habits of absolute majority of employees and customers in _any business in 10 years_ will require some major shift."

          I'm hoping this means an increase in communications between the lowest levels and highest levels of the organization. It's amazing to me how little the CXOs communicate with the lowest levels of the organization. Frankly, I want to see the ivory towers go away.

          . . . but IMO that's a bit of a pipe dream. I don't think it's the tools that are the problem - after all, email has allowed this for a long time. I think it's because they *want* to be ivory towers, and no amount of "social" is gonna fix a refusal to communicate.
          CobraA1
          Reply Vote I'm Undecided
          • My point exactly

            Too many words and too much prickiness for so little entropy. ;)

            Last paragraph of my first comment: "It just turned out that the biggest problem is not in the technical means, but in corporate culture and business processes."

            So I guess I agree with your argument after all.
            Pavel R.
            Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided