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Social in Business? Rather, Social Business


July 26, 2011

Can “Social” be Justified in Business?

Doug Hadden, VP Products

Many business leaders question the value of social networking. So the consultants and analysts are at it again with return on investment spreadsheets, warnings, damn lies and statistics.

And, many corporate social networking initiatives are meager at best. That’s because these firms see social media as another broadcast channel: press releases and opinion and listen to see if anyone is hurting your brand.

Social is a Business Model

Social is not a channel. It’s a fundamental way of doing business. Social businesses have many of the following characteristics:

  1. Customer-intimate with customer-centric processes: there is significant overlap among “departments” to support customer requirements. Marketing departments engage customers and domain experts. Product management is integrated. As are support and sales. This is not an operationally efficient model, but it is customer effective.
  2. Social enterprises: for profit or not for profit companies focused on specific social needs like clean water, green technology or governance. Social enterprises recognize that traditional business models need to change. Business models and methods adapt to suit the social need.
  3. Networked: organizations that participate in domain events, academic studies and discussions with like-minded individuals are social. These organizations learn and adapt. Networked organizations are more able to migrate to the virtual networked world.
  4. Learning organizations: many larger organizations have a culture of expertise. Leaders believe that they are ahead of the curve, thought leaders, little to learn from the crowds. Social organizations are always learning and sharing what they’ve learned.
  5. Sustainability: social businesses want customers to be continue buying products and services. These organizations understand their environmental impact and the total customer costs. Social businesses drive down long-term customer costs.
  6. Transparent: holding knowledge is no longer power. Sharing knowledge is power. Social organizations are forthright and accountable. Transparency is the new currency of trust.

Our experience at FreeBalance

FreeBalance is a for-profit social enterprise (FOPSE) focused on governance and public financial management. We leverage a number of social networking tools. We’ve discovered many interesting phenomena:

  1. Making a direct connection between a social media posting to a sale is almost impossible. We find that social media adds to the company credibility and supports our social networking activities outside the digital world.
  2. Valuable product and process ideas have been generated through social media interaction with experts in the governance domain.
  3. More effective use of corporate social responsibility initiatives have occurred thanks to learning good practices from practitioners.



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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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