Social Business: We’re Just Getting Started

Recently, folks suggested that social business space was getting washed out, especially with Social Media Week spreading across the globe and being hosted at many corporations. Yet despite the interesting and activity around this topic, many folks are confused around what maturity really looks like. Managing a Facebook page to promote the latest campaign isn’t really social business, it’s just social added to existing interactive marketing.

I was talking with industry peer Michael Brito (former Intel and now at Edelman) about the maturity of the space at Cisco’s social media week yesterday, and we both agree this space is just heating up. But don’t listen to us, instead, let’s review a sample from a recent Altimeter Report on Social Business of what actual corporate decision makers said in a recent survey:


Only the Most Advanced Companies are Conducting Social Business Holistically, Beyond Individual Silos
Figure 1: Only the Most Advanced Companies are Conducting Social Business Holistically, Beyond Individual Silos

Advanced Companies are Formalizing Processes to Intake Customer Insights
Figure 2: Advanced Companies are Formalizing Processes to Intake Customer Insights

Only the Most Advanced Companies Are Integrating Social Data into Customer Databases
Figure 3: Only the Most Advanced Companies Are Integrating Social Data into Customer Databases

Let’s take a look at this data, to understand why the social business space is still very immature:

The Industry Isn’t Mature, Few Have Reached Advanced
Altimeter’s research often segments buyers by their maturity, as it helps to forecast future behaviors and we wanted to share this today. First note this maturity breakout of these corporations (many of which are global national) that have over 1000 employees: novice are 44, intermediate 81, and advanced are 18. Percentage wise, we see that 56% of the 143 are lumped in the intermediate stages, followed by 30% of the market in novice, and followed by the remaining advanced a mere 12% of the set. What does this mean? While most companies are past the experimentation stage, they’ve yet to roll these out across the corporation or think bigger than campaigns or specific business units.

Limited Integration Across Business Units, Products, and Customer Databases
Looking at Figure 1, we can see that many companies are not even integrating this across their enterprise. We know from data that rollout usually starts in Marketing (with a segment of that being corp comm), followed by customer support who has to respond to angry clients, followed by product teams, and then low adoption for partner ecosystem and supply chain. One sign of an advance company is the ability to integrate customer feedback into the product roadmap in Figure 2. We know this is a sign of maturity as it requires both vertical approval from executives and broad approval across product lines and beyond –it’s often against the culture of many engineering groups. Lastly, in Figure 3, companies barely even have a full view of their customers in the social space, as data is siloed among brand monitoring, locked in Facebook apps, and spread among the company.

Understand What Advanced Corporations Look LIke
There’s a few criteria I look for when seeing if a company is advanced beyond the three figures presented above. Nearly all employees are using social in a safe and organized way (called Holistic). Another criteria is data is being aggregated from multiple locations and the company is able to predict and anticipate what customers are going to do. Thirdly, they stop using the terms ‘social business’ and just use the term ‘business’ as this integrates into their normal digital communications. While somewhat dated (2010) I created a list of what an advanced company looks like, although I feel it needs updating in 2012.

I look forward to hearing from you, what are you seeing: Are companies starting to mature? What are your indicators?

  • http://humanvoice.wordpress.com tomob

    Thanks for sharing the analysis. 

    I think if the sample set was solely the world’s largest companies AND you defined “advanced” as incorporating social tools, techniques and process into their strategic and operational planning & execution to drive competitive advantage there would be even fewer than 12% in the advanced stage.

    It is still early days.

    @tomob:twitter

  • http://humanvoice.wordpress.com tomob

    Thanks for sharing the analysis. 

    I think if the sample set was solely the world’s largest companies AND you defined “advanced” as incorporating social tools, techniques and process into their strategic and operational planning & execution to drive competitive advantage there would be even fewer than 12% in the advanced stage.

    It is still early days.

    @tomob:twitter

  • http://humanvoice.wordpress.com tomob

    Thanks for sharing the analysis. 

    I think if the sample set was solely the world’s largest companies AND you defined “advanced” as incorporating social tools, techniques and process into their strategic and operational planning & execution to drive competitive advantage there would be even fewer than 12% in the advanced stage.

    It is still early days.

    @tomob:twitter

  • http://humanvoice.wordpress.com tomob

    Thanks for sharing the analysis. 

    I think if the sample set was solely the world’s largest companies AND you defined “advanced” as incorporating social tools, techniques and process into their strategic and operational planning & execution to drive competitive advantage there would be even fewer than 12% in the advanced stage.

    It is still early days.

    @tomob:twitter

  • http://web-strategist.com/blog Jeremiah Owyang

    Correct.  Even among the advanced the saturation numbers are not fully confident in their ability.  

  • http://web-strategist.com/blog Jeremiah Owyang

    Correct.  Even among the advanced the saturation numbers are not fully confident in their ability.  

  • Anonymous

    For many of the Big Pharma client’s I talk to the whole concept remains alien, scary and something they wish would go away. But there are some signs that this is changing and they are just beginning to realise they HAVE to engage. Just best not to use the term Social Media in any discussion – until the benefits of the interaction have been clearly established. 

  • Anonymous

    For many of the Big Pharma client’s I talk to the whole concept remains alien, scary and something they wish would go away. But there are some signs that this is changing and they are just beginning to realise they HAVE to engage. Just best not to use the term Social Media in any discussion – until the benefits of the interaction have been clearly established. 

  • http://web-strategist.com/blog Jeremiah Owyang

    Savvy folks know how to pitch it without ever mentioning the tools.  Focus on customers and relationships with customers instead.

  • http://www.sasasoftwaretechnologies.com/ Web Development Company

    Hi Social business is good for any websites realted person and also best way to your link promotion and this post such a nice content share with you thanks for this post.

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  • http://twitter.com/alexvdm Alex Vandermeersch

    There is still a long way to go before companies adapt fully the power of Social. I was quite impressed though as I visited recently Leroy Merlin HQ, a major french DIY retailer which is actually advanced and has the mission to ‘enchant the customer’. The central group enables every store to create a community of clients, and their strategy is entirely around creating ‘pull’ by turning clients to ambassadors, with social media at the core of it. 
    One note though: as you pointed yourself many times, social business is much more than digital communications (see your last paragraph). It creates a full ‘Copernician’ revolution around the customer, from R&D/innovation to customer service. Internally it helps to move to an empowered organization. Externally it creates leverage on ecosystems. I think it will be a couple of decade before it’s fully embraced.

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  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

    Any thought that we somehow have social business figured it is laughable. Most companies still don’t have SEO figured out, or website conversions, or decent call centers and customer experience. And they’ve been working on those items for 10-15 years. We are a decade from any sort of widespread social business codification or mastery, at least. The more the change involves corporate culture, the harder it is and the longer it takes. Having a Radian 6 subscription (or similar) isn’t “social business” it’s just buying a new telephone. 

  • http://twitter.com/clickbyclick Dave Ewart

    If we rename “social business” as “customer experience” we’ll go further in understanding the true end game and the improvement we seek.  The medium should not be confused with the purpose.

  • http://twitter.com/clickbyclick Dave Ewart

    If we rename “social business” as “customer experience” we’ll go further in understanding the true end game and the improvement we seek.  The medium should not be confused with the purpose.

  • http://twitter.com/guylaw1313 Guy Alvarez

    I think most companies are missing the boat and only focusing on social media marketing. That is not a true social business. I think companies should first start by socializing their internal systems and procedures and then begin to engage and listen. If your company is not properly socialized from an internal perspective, it will not be able to do anything with any of the information it takes in from customers, partners or the public at large

  • http://BestSellerAuthors.com Warren Whitlock

    When I think about the most advanced companies, I imagine them answering the question of “Have you got a social business?” with “We are working on it but there’s a lot more we can do”

    We are all just getting started in this revolution of business.

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  • http://www.chrisreed.posterous.com chris_reed

    There’s definitely significantly more interest (particularly if the attendance at last week’s social business #smw events in London were anything to go on), and some movement, but it’s a slow game for big businesses, for understandable reasons. Processes which have evolved over decades (top down hierachies – dissemination of information via memo and then via email etc. etc.) will take a while to adapt – no matter how quickly people want them to change…

  • http://www.chrisreed.posterous.com chris_reed

    There’s definitely significantly more interest (particularly if the attendance at last week’s social business #smw events in London were anything to go on), and some movement, but it’s a slow game for big businesses, for understandable reasons. Processes which have evolved over decades (top down hierachies – dissemination of information via memo and then via email etc. etc.) will take a while to adapt – no matter how quickly people want them to change…

  • Steve Alter

    Really appreciate how you’ve recontextualized this data, Jeremiah.  

    Even for large companies that are actively pursuing the principles of becoming a social enterprise, it can be easy to mistake progress for maturity; I’d cite your point about the lack of integration as the core differentiator, and it is a yawning gap for massively matrixed organizations.     For the majority of companies, though, it’s hard to be mature when you don’t know what adolescence is.  :-)  And as pointed out in the comments, the terminology creates confusion, not clarity, and drives decisions that – shockingly – don’t produce the desired outcome.  So while the discussion about what these things actually mean rages on, I’ve found that establishing a basic framework as below, with some very clear distinctions and dependencies, helps companies begin to understand what it is that they actually aspire to and start toddling in the right direction.  

    Social Business describes operations; how a business conducts itself and functions to connect with its customers and employees; and the people, processes and technology required for doing so.

    Social Engagement describes the activities and outcomes of connecting to and building relationships with your customers and stakeholders, including the identification, activation and ongoing engagement with your most ardent advocates.
     
    Social Media describes the tools and technology for connecting with your customers and stakeholders; it is the mechanism for executing on Social Engagement and building a Social Business.These aren’t meant to be definitions, but simply to create some clarity so that companies can have a meaningful discussion about these things in the context of each other versus munging them all together.

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  • http://www.providentpartners.net/blog Albert_Maruggi

    let’s not just put on onus on business to have a “social culture” – our culture needs to change to truly benefit from social media/networks.  However human nature being what it is, perhaps we won’t get there.  Perhaps all social will turnout to be is advanced ways to manipulate populations to do what power centers want them to do.  

    We are living in a social information economy and an individual financial economy.  Inside corporate cultures are hornets nests of personal or tribal survival and so there is a long long way to go before we’ll see truly social business, if at all.  

  • http://www.providentpartners.net/blog Albert_Maruggi

    let’s not just put on onus on business to have a “social culture” – our culture needs to change to truly benefit from social media/networks.  However human nature being what it is, perhaps we won’t get there.  Perhaps all social will turnout to be is advanced ways to manipulate populations to do what power centers want them to do.  

    We are living in a social information economy and an individual financial economy.  Inside corporate cultures are hornets nests of personal or tribal survival and so there is a long long way to go before we’ll see truly social business, if at all.  

  • http://brunogebarski.wordpress.com/ Bruno Pierre Gebarski

    Those charts could most likely be for Northern America! Things could be worse on this side of the pond as we do not have the US level of customer service! ! I still receive stacks of outbound marketing emails, which land directly into the “bin”! The main issue about SM is not the technology but the mindset of the leaders and their prevailing silo mentality! The real need as Jay Baer calls it is a “a one mind one heart” mentality and a ratified company intrinsic core culture, which is the foundation of a possible and successful social media message! Difficult to give up control and silos for some leaders and begin to trust and delegate! How can employees trust company leadership or management “cadre” or frame as we name it in France if they themselves do not show trust and concern towards their employees first? What sort of company culture is going to get out there? I gave a call to Zappos a couple of weeks ago and the lady on the telephone said: “we are blessed to be working for Zappos” Is not this the start of a good and solid SM message?

  • Pharaoh Alberts

    one ring to rule them all…

  • http://twitter.com/kingosaur Krishna Neelamraju


    Managing a Facebook page to promote the latest campaign isn’t really social business’. How true! What brands really mean by being Social today is having a ‘presence’ in the Social Networks that are ‘It’ as of today. As long as they do not invest in connecting with their networks and genuinely participating in conversations, they are fooling themselves.

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