The Definition of Social Business

January 22, 2015
Written by Bloomfire Admin

Back in 2009, Peter Kim was the first to use the term ‘social business’ to describe new ways of collaborating that have changed the way we work and connect.

Since then, the term social business has been thrown around a lot, but we couldn’t find a proper definition when our CEO was working on an article for the Austin Business Journal on social business in Austin. So, we decided to define it as simply as we could:

Social business is the integrated application of social technology across the enterprise – connecting people and the knowledge they need to get work done.

We did a lot of research and thinking about social business before coming up with our definition. Of course It’s important to note that just because you’re using social media for business doesn’t make you a social business.

According to a blog post on Our Social Times, “used together, social media, company-managed customer communities, and internal-facing employee social networks can form an integrated social business strategy that turns your company into a true ‘social business.'”

In 2012, David Armano, Jevon MacDonald, and Peter Kim described social business design:

Social business draws on trends in technology (e.g., powerful mobile devices, widespread availability of high-speed Internet access, low cost of data storage), work (e.g., always-on culture, globalization), and society (e.g., propensity to share). Companies should care about social business because they can improve business outcomes (i.e., increase revenue or decrease costs). The core principles touch on all areas of a business, whether for business-to-customer engagement, employee-to-employee collaboration, or supply chain optimization. Making social business work requires focus on a company’s culture, connections, content exchanges, and measurement and analytics.

Also in 2012, Cheryl Burgess described her take on social business in an article for AT&T’s networking exchange blog as:

“Social businesses implement social technologies, strategies and processes that span across their entire enterprise, creating and optimizing collaborative ecosystems of employees, customers, partners, suppliers, communities and stakeholders in a safe and consistent way. To transform into a social business, companies need to have more than a mere linear presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and blogs.

To achieve this, successful businesses must align their core goals and objectives in cross-enterprise collaboration and create a socially integrated organizational blueprint that focuses on people and culture.”

We talked about social business tools ourselves in our eBook, “How to Get Started with Enterprise Social Networks.” We said:

“Social business tools are not entirely new. Enterprises have been using virtual tools such as chat and message board tools for years. However, it’s only very recently that we are seeing rapid adoption of social business elements like social media networks. Gartner predicted that by 2016 half of all large organizations will have internal Facebook-like social networks, and that 30 percent of those will be considered as essential as email and phone. Social business tools have the potential to improve an organizations communication, collaboration, productivity, and overall employee engagement.”

All of this is great stuff, and we generally agree with these descriptions, but we wanted a more succinct way to describe this big idea. We would love your thoughts on how we did.

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  • We like your definition. Up to now we’ve highlighted these two as the best:

    “The deep integration of social media and social integration in to the organisation to drive business impact.” – Altimeter Group


    “Social business is the ability for an ORGANIZATION to use its communities to improve its performance.” – Socius

    …they add “business impact” and “communities”.

    We also think the term needs to be properly positioned inside the digital transformation topic and that all of the industry’s language around this has been changing and evolving over the last 6-9 months.

    • Jodi Holzband

      Thanks for your comment, David. It’s very interesting watching this space, and the language around it, evolve.

  • Eliel D

    This article helped me a lot. I have been reading a lot from Mahummed Yunus, Nobel Laureate, and I have been looking for ways to put these ideas into practice. You really did a great job of doing exactly that. I hope that my work at Better Better Better becomes as influential as your work is now.

    • Blogfire

      Glad it was helpful to you Eliel. Thanks for commenting.