Social Business re-imagined in a Contemporary Market

Posted by Flux on 

6 November 2012

What’s Trending?

Social Business.

The concept of social business was first coined by Professor  Muhammad Yunus, who proposed that businesses should operate in a model where the prime focus is on the impact of people or environment, rather than the amount of profit made in a given period.

Consumers have become increasingly more educated, more connected and have found more vocal means to interact with organisations, firms and brands on a social level – diffused via social media.

Therefore this change in consumer behaviour and attitude has meant that businesses have had to adopt new ways of  being more social. The  identifies that a social business needs to serve the individual and listen in order to break down silos.  In addition, social businesses are ones that respond, learn, evolve and ultimately become social through that process.

The reality, opaque for most organisations, is that business are still currently dealing with the realities of social media and only a few truly recognize the potential of social business. The concept of social business has evolved to such an extent that Yunus’ conception of  social business has grown outdated. The new trend is for organisations to build new economic models shaped by social technologies such as social media & cloud technology etc.

Why It’s Important?
A new era of social business is beginning to take shape based on the social technologies that increasingly mould and define the digital economy. This pattern is one that is important for businesses to take note of. With the digital landscape having rapidly progressed  and in the process carving out its own digital economy –  social technologies are shifting control of value creation and increasingly drawing businesses towards consumers and the intermediaries that provide the interfaces between consumers and firms. The internet has influenced what consumers know, want and how they interact with brands, products, services and businesses.

Social business in essence leverages soft power and in many ways directly reflects some of the elements Dion Chang spoke to in his “The Importance of Soft Power” trend presentation. Social business is a way for businesses to begin operating in a world that has gone ‘social’.

How is this unfolding?

Social media networks have been the main networking tool for businesses to realise a social mandate. These social media interactions have been the personalities of organisations as they engage socially contrary to their otherwise dull public personas or lack thereof in the past. Initially businesses focused on an approach of “being everywhere” and we are seeing an approach that rather looks to “be where it matters and more concentrated for our business” in the social space.

Cloud computing is another important aspect of social technology that is a way of introducing a social business  perspective for firms and organisation. The competition to own business and consumer information is intensifying and the cloud is an interesting manifestation of a socially inspired model; sharing information with a community in a cloud. According to Aberdeen Group, The Social Mobile Cloud represents a strategic roadmap for companies where everyone’s connected (social), everywhere they go (mobile), and have access to data when they need it (cloud). “These three disruptive technologies will transform businesses and society, increasingly blurring how we work, play and interact with our families and friends”.

Furthermore, elements such as gamification which is a radical approach being employed in businesses is gaining traction as part of a contemporary and post-modern approach to social business. Gartner Research estimates more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have a gamified application by 2015. Big brands already adopting gamification include AOL, Coke, Dell, Nissan, Nike, Pepsi according to 42terabytes.

Other elements which have become a trend is the idea of social recruiting; recruiting via social platforms such as LinkedIn. From e-commerce to m-commerce, the mobile space is an important market for business to pay attention to.  M-commerce or alternatively mobile payment is changing the face of e-commerce. According to Juniper Research consumers will use their handsets to make mobile payments valued at US$180 billion in 2017.

What we are observing are social technologies developing different and alternative models. As the  report by McKinsey suggests; 72% of companies reported using social technologies in their business and 90% of the users reported seeing benefits.

The Butterfly Effect?

The marketplace is changing, or rather has changed. Business are finding ways to adapt to the contemporary consumer.  How have consumers changed? According to Nielsen’s State of the Media: U.S Digital Consumer report; consumers are sharing like never before. Sharing via digital platforms and assuming more powerful positions in this consumer –business relationship. As the power balance shifts, consumers no longer want to be treated as consumers but as partners.

As the marketplace changes, the nature of the firms of the futures will show and we are already seeing those changes in effect and will likely result in macro paradigm shifts of the future.  Key questions for organisations, businesses and firms of the future are centred around issues of: How can your organization use social technology to improve business, productivity and brand awareness?  Businesses are asking such questions of their own business models every day.

Businesses are increasingly nodes in a broader network. In addition, in search of new alternative models and ways of innovating; brands and businesses are tapping into the global brain using crowdsourcing, tribe sourcing, community sourcing, open innovation or co-creation platforms to fulfil their consumers and in turn engage on more fulfilling social engagements.


Digital technologies, namely the advent of social media has transformed the landscape introducing a game changing element that shifted the power dynamic between consumer and business. It is this very shift in power dynamic that has meant that the concept of social business had to be reimagined and more importantly – engaged.

Global Hotspots

Becoming social means that the boundaries between the firm and its customers are falling, co-creation is the new paradigm. Organisations and companies that are fiercely embracing principles of social business and also committed to innovation and technology will be at the forefront of the social business trend. Examining the Dachis Group Social Business Index,  Google is positioned at the top with the Boston Consulting Group at second.  US companies seem to be at the forefront of the social business movement. The Yunus Centre in Bangladesh remains the very core global foundation of the social business movement.

*Statistics sourced from Global Trends Briefing September 2012*
By: Saint-Francis Tohlang

About Saint-Francis

Saint-Francis is a cultural student of life; keenly perceptive and observant of shapers of culture and the post-modern climate. He is obsessed with contemporary culture and the human carnival. His research areas and interest are media markets and strategies, communications, youth culture, mobile culture and the online media ecology strongly rooted in an anthropological perspective.  Tohlang has an MA in Media from UCT.

Image credit: Gallo Images/ Getty Images

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