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Social Business Explained: Examples of Social Business

When it comes to social business, many practitioners look for case studies and examples that they can learn and adapt from. I don’t feel this is necessary to see success in developing and executing on social business initiatives. Nevertheless, they are helpful for helping you see how other organizations have benefited from unconventional, newer ways of getting work done.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that it’s important to know the distinction between social media and social business. When you deeply understand this, you’ll see that these cases contribute meaningfully to key areas of the business, and aren’t easily seen externally.

This post is a part of my Social Business Explained blog series for social media professionals and community managers so they can create sustainable social businesses.

Here are five different social business examples that I think are great cases.

1. Cracking through a large corporate culture: IBM [PDF]

IBM employs about 400,000 employees around the globe. Their internal culture wasn’t as collaborative as you might expect. This case study details how they implemented one of their internal projects called “Blue IQ,” which helps professionals across the company share knowledge, find experts and improve productivity. While ROI wasn’t the goal, collaboration increased and quality of life for employees improved as a result.

2. Unlock success in a downturn with internal collaboration: Toshiba

Toshiba adopted Jive Software internally to drive better communication and collaboration. While the gist of the article is to promote the adoption of Jive, it’s important to read the back story and see if it sounds familiar to you. Early success doesn’t mean massive adoption and they made note of that in the study.

3. Utilizing a customer support community for product development and deeper engagement: GiffGaff

A pay-as-you-go mobile phone company in the UK, had their customer support community like many other brands. They didn’t simply marginalize their forums into product support, they expanded it into being a great listening device for their product teams. As a result, they have been able to take fresh ideas, taken directly from their customers, and deploy it out to the market. The real kicker here, is that they reward their users for ideas and participation. It’s not free — it’s a wise investment to listen to outside inputs and carry out the ideas that are successful.

4. Humanizing a bland brand by being nice: Walgreen’s

Think about what Walgreen’s means to you for a moment. It’s probably the place you go to get medicine, deodorant or even Halloween candy at the eleventh hour. Not a friendly, communicative and “warm” business, right? While this example is much more “marketing” focused, you need to see what is behind it. In a humanized, fun way, the company was able to pool resources from sales, marketing and PR together to drive value for one of their patrons. Perhaps the focus was to drive word of mouth, but it could very well be a way to train the muscle in the company to listen and respond to customers “in the moment” of real-time social media.

5. Beyond Dell Hell, social media training helps employees join customer conversations: Dell

In a recent visit to Dell, Jason Falls shares his takeaways from what was happening in the walls of Dell. We all know about their social media command center and know about their means to sell products on Twitter. But what is interesting is how they have enrolled more than 20,000 employees into social media education. This investment pays its dividend later by enabling more staff to take part in customer communication beyond the PR team. In a photo montage, you can see that employees, even Michael Dell, have posted their desired benefits from social media.

Write your own case study.

The running theme in these is to look beyond sales and marketing as the measuring stick. You want to look at social business as one of the ways to improve the way work is done effectively, nurture (and bridge) internal and external communities and to improve outcomes with greater intelligence and data. It’s also important to think not just about the problems or limitations you have now, but what about five or ten years from now and start working on those today.

It’s my advice to write your own case study. Don’t depend on these implementations. These will only hold back your imagination. Think big and make a big difference in how you work and engage with others and big results will happen.

If you have a case study, experience or story about adopting social business in your company, tell me about it in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Stéfan; Foide