The marketing services industry is firmly entrenched in the social business hype cycle. Firms are repositioning themselves as experts in social business strategy/consulting/design and preaching the need for social business transformation now.

While it was Dachis Group that coined the term "social business design", an armada of agencies, technology companies and consultants have joined the fray over the last two years, and the bandwagon continues to grow.

As buzzwords enter our lexicon, we should be reminded that these buzzwords are a little like folklore. Once you tear away the hype and mystery, they are rooted in reality and based on real world need and business implications.

So let’s start with a concise definition of “social business.” In recent years it means the application of social technologies and processes to both the external (ie: customers, partners and supply chain) and internal (ie: employees) needs of an organization.

Social media behavior, a key catalyst

Of course, social media and social tools are transformational both within and external to an organization. Developing and nurturing relationships with consumers on social platforms has played a major role in fueling the resurgence of digital brand building and consumer engagement.

Likewise, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing within organizations using "social business platforms" is revolutionizing the way we work. However, in practice, many businesses have a difficult time changing their culture and workflow and therefore struggle to actualize the benefits of cross-functional involvement in consumer engagement, nor the formal collaboration platforms available today (hence the onslaught of social business firms).

As companies mature digitally, this will change, and social tools will facilitate effective collaboration and workflow within organizations of all sizes. There is clearly a need for social business tools and processes. But this statement alone misses a much bigger picture.

Developing your "digital operating system"

An organization cannot become a social business without first, or at least simultaneously, becoming a digital business. Plugging digital roles into legacy silos does not a digital business make. This common practice yields an inefficient retrofit rather than the transformation required to compete in today's attention economy.

Companies must periodically revisit the org structure, capabilities, and resources allocated to all facets of digital integration across the organization. This ranges from strategy, to development and production, brand, content, and creative, data, analytics, and CRM, media, mobile and social.

Redesigning the org structure and processes, and the change management associated with shifting the corporate culture to adopt to the connected and empowered consumer, is an essential step in the evolution of business today. Look at it as developing a basic digital operating system for your organization.

We are all change agents

The shift of consumer attention to digital channels has been a significant catalyst of change for marketers. Historically, the change has been reactionary rather than systemic. Organizational transformation is no easy feat.

It requires executive level commitment, financial investment, and venturing into new waters. Execution requires new ways of working, acquiring and nurturing talent, developing new capabilities, and driving innovation.

In short, social business is just a cog of a bigger organizational transformation. Some companies have made incremental changes, some languish in legacy, while others blaze ahead. How digitally mature is your organization?

Share your stories here or hit me on Twitter @jasonheller.

Jason Heller

Published 28 November, 2012 by Jason Heller

Jason Heller is CEO of Agiliti, a digital marketing operations and strategy consultancy. He is a digital marketing agency pioneer, recognized thought leader, author, speaker, and strategist.

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Comments (10)

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Primary Position SEO

At last - the webz are making more sense! More of this kind of thing please! :)

(then secretly we can re-brand it as a wing of SEO)

over 5 years ago

Guy Harvey

Guy Harvey, Marketing Consultant - Social Media and Media Relations at Human Factors International

Good article. People asked me if people make money on Facebook. The answer is not by itself but adding Facebook and other social channels to your existing ecosystem of web, email, search, and off line marketing will help float the whole boat.

over 5 years ago

Kevin Pham

Kevin Pham, Responsive Web Design at ProWeb365

I think social business still has good effect. People are getting money from Facebook alot. Therefore, social marketing channel still make sense. right?

over 5 years ago


Ian Vaughan

Totally agree with the article. The key to success is that all digital channels are connected

over 5 years ago


P.K Bibi

Too right Jason.

Somebody asked a very witty question on LinkedIn the other day “what does it take to become a Social Media Guru?” apparently not a lot – an account on Facebook & Twitter.

As marketers we are always looking for the bright shinny object; that panacea that will solve all our marketing woes. Not too long ago, it was CRM...

Interesting enough, I have received 5 pieces of direct mail from Google this year alone! Go figure.

over 5 years ago


Ron Skirving

As a software developer colleague of mine with decades of experience said to me yesterday when I quizzed him about the cost of building an app for a client,
"If you had asked 4 years ago the application may have been a challenge. Now nearly all the pieces of the jigsaw are available easily and mass marketed."
The challenge, today, is to bring together the digital elements and create that seamless cross over between technical and creative. The combination of marketing consultancy and technical consultancy has never been in more demand. Even traditional methods of project management are being challenged as a new breed of specialist evolves in the digital arena. The route to market for any software development now has to embrace the existing channels laid open to it that were
never there previously. Only a few years ago, as much consideration would have been given to the development of the infrastructure and hardware to facilitate the solution. Now the high speed communication link and hardware is in the palm of your hand.

over 5 years ago


Jay Cooper

I agree with some of the content but not the sentiment, particularly around the comments further down.

Social Business is not in a hype cycle. Where the hype kicks in is adding the word "social" in front and expecting a step change, e.g.. Social Business, Social CRM, Social Currency, etc.

Social Business is not, social media marketing for business. It is not eCommerce for Facebook.

Social business is about transforming business to be at the listening of their customers with the aim of being authentic in engagement with them.

It is about transforming the internal structure of a business to face the challenge of the social consumer.

Here's the fun bit - it isn't just about marketing. Any department can pick up and run with social business practices. This isn't something shiny for a marketing communications manager to get all excited over.

As a Social Business consultancy (no, not jumping on a band wagon, but with major clients such as Toyota and Wiley Publishing) our belief is the following:

What happens internally is as important as what happens externally. There are no magic social tools that will make this authentically work for you.

Please people, stop confusing marketing and social media with social business!

over 5 years ago

Jason Heller

Jason Heller, Global Lead, Digital Marketing Operations at McKinsey & CompanySmall Business Multi-user

@jay I think you just described to a degree why it is in a hype cycle (as all technological advances go through -- google the Gartner hype cycle). This is not a negative statement. Social business IS transformational. It IS necessary. It IS significant. But too many business have put the cart before the horse and never properly went through the digital business transformation. To them social business (all facets of internal and external social adoption and utilization) is the shiny object. And there are so many social business consultancies and agencies now, because of the hype cycle - some are effective at stewarding change within organizations, some are riding the wave and path of least resistance. No different than what happened with digital in general, and then subsets of search, mobile and of course social media, and social business. All of that said, social business needs are a significant catalyst of general digital transformation for many organizations today, and I am very happy to see that.

over 5 years ago


Jay Cooper

@jason Excellent point you make regarding putting horse before the cart. Also that of social business being a cog in the bigger picture organisation transformation process.

over 5 years ago


Accounts Team

Some businesses now requires consultancy firms to provide cloud accounting. Firms that provide services like bookkeeping and accounting are really efficient on managing financial issues, and these services can take away the headaches of finances, costs, and taxes. We all know there are more to focus on regarding business management, but hiring someone who can manage well these financial matters can give a big step towards success.. :)

over 5 years ago

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