Social Business Design: Birth of a New Industry

La Défense

New industry sectors coalesce and crystallize as a result of a number of factors converging.

In the case of Social Business Design this is an area that has been bubbling under for about 18 months with a range of different tags, such as Enterprise 2.0, but it never really gelled together. There were differences of opinion on who the market was, how to approach it and what exactly did it constitute. Was it simply setting up a corporate blog, an internal wiki and a customer forum or was there more to this area?

Charlene Li’s book Groundswell went a long way towards gathering impetus behind this new industry sector, but still the gel wasn’t quite there. When she left Forrester and set up the Altimeter Group people took notice, but their attention wasn’t galvanized.

And then Jeremiah Oywang left Forrester as well and joined Charlene. People started to sit up and really take notice – they were primed for something to happen. Around about the same time David Armano, an exec with the Dachis Group gave a presentation at the Social Fresh conference titled Social Business by Design. The industry now had a moniker to focus around.

The key inflection point though came last week when Dachis acquired Headshift. Much has already been written about this and most industry commentators will agree with the following tweet from @amayfield:

Headshift/Dachis is massively significant. Not marketing…this is a new sector shaping up: social business.

The Social Business Design meme is now starting to spread rapidly courtesy of one of the classic tenets of this industry: sharing. David Armano had placed his deck of slides on Slideshare two weeks ago. It has since been featured on Slideshare’s new “hot on Twitter” section and is gaining a lot more viewers.

This depth of attention around the topic is rapidly turning to more widespread adoption of the term, both by potential industry practitioners and by their potential clients. An industry is born.

What is Social Business Design?

Anne McCrossan has delivered a cogent summary of this arena:

Social business design sits at the intersection of organizational development and marketing, and can loosely be described as the practice of developing communities of engagement to develop ideas, activities and outputs for commercial and social benefit.

As organizations adopt the principles of social business design, intangible, soft assets like brand value, purpose, human resources, processes and capabilities come to the fore. Social business design is about engendering involvement and it’s inbound.

Slightly differently, marketing services and ‘broadcast’ media operate on the basis the message and transaction are the means to the end. Marketing services communicate primarily outbound.

Her entire post is pure gold and I highly recommend anyone who has read this far to jump over to her site and continue reading.

You will be hearing a lot more on the topic of Social Business Design and I will aim to synthesise and analyze as much of it as I can.

ADDED: Gaurav Mishra has posted a comprehensive summary of this burgeoning space and I wanted to point to his thoughts as they complement the thread in this post.

The key take out, for me, from his comments are that both Altimeter and Dachis focus on using emerging social technologies for transforming businesses, instead of merely reaching out to customers.

This is a salient point. As the social technologies shift, so can the emphasis that an agency puts in those technologies. For example, Augmented Reality is still in its early infancy as a technology and a few years out from being of use within the enterprise. However, when it does mature as a technology it will have an immense impact, until then it is on all of our watchlists, but it’s not worth confusing clients with until it matures somewhat.

[picture courtesy of JArous]