Social business and social design

As I’ve written earlier, the new catchphrases to describe business use of social software don’t matter much to me, but the term shifts signify a trend – organizations are starting to understand the value at a more strategic level – and people selling to organizations are selling at a higher level – to executives in terms of business results, rather than to mid-level champions in terms of technical trends and social goals. The focus on business results is not just about implementing and assessing social software in terms of existing business goals such as new product development, but in taking opportunities to re-think the business goals and metrics themselves, as in this Stowe Boyd presentation where networks are increasingly central to the way work gets done, and real-time synthesis is increasingly critical to business results.

Being strategic is good. It takes social software out of the world of feature lists (tags! wikis! ratings!) and value-free adoption metrics (who cares about page views if they don’t relate to business goals). But strategy becomes the dilbert-ism du jour if it’s not accompanied by real changes in what is done and how. Will Evans describes the gap between strategy and execution: “Companies are now aligning around “social business” without a strong understanding of experience design or even what it means to be ’social’ in online mediated spaces, nor how to leverage that to increase value and engagement with their core customers.” Whether the domain is consumer marketing (the context of Will’s post); and/or company processes and business networks, organizations need to consider how the social tools and experience will relate to the business goals, integrating social capabilities with existing business processes, taking into account factors such as social incentives, discoverability and privacy as they relate to the organization’s culture. (And that business integration is key – friendly customer service reps on twitter can’t compensate for poor service).

The business goals (and reconsideration of the goals) are at the level of social business strategy. And the what and the how – the choices that make it successful in a given context – are the considerations of social design. Enterprise 2.0 strategy is needed to sell and implement at a high level in the organization, driven by business goals. Social design, in tools and process, is needed in order to realize the strategy.

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