Social Enterprise Meaning & Characteristics

What is the social enterprise? 

  • Traditionally, the term has referred to an organization’s social mission of philanthropy, charity or furthering a noble cause.
  • In the past few years, the phrase has been used to define organizations that are pioneering a new level of connectivity within the corporate world. 
  • Made possible through cloud computing, the social enterprise mirrors personal social networks like Facebook that leverage the social grid to share information and ideas. 
  • Businesses are extending this familiar model to establish a similar synergy between their employees, customers and business partners — thus, employing a new social enterprise.

Value of the social enterprise 
  • Allows customers to get closer to their favorite brands, offers them a voice when they have something to say (good or bad) and encourages them to make better buying decisions. 
  • For companies, it magnifies the voice of the customer, allows them to identify macro trends, improve their customer service, maximize sales through new channels and even improve employee satisfaction.

  • It impacts an organization’s culture, processes, systems and bottom line. 
  • Leveraging social media in the enterprise is new to many, but time is ticking for those who haven’t developed a social enterprise strategy — chances are competitors have a head start. The cost of not taking action could be high.
Key Characteristics of any social enterprise:
  • Internal and External
    • Connectivity within an organization, between employees, departments, regions and divisions, is key. 
    • Improved communication benefits every company, no matter the size, and must be carried from the CEO all the way down to entry-level employees. 
    • Connectivity also aids in tactical communications related to business processes, on-boarding new employees, and building a culture of teamwork.
    • Private, internal social networks revolutionize internal communication and collaboration by facilitating conversations and idea sharing, and by providing a forum for asking and answering questions. 
    • Unlike email, questions and ideas can be posed to a broader, non-specific audience so that responses are invited from and available to an entire group.
    • Participation in external, public social networks is also a requirement of the social enterprise. 
    • By establishing a persona on public social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, a company can manage its brand where consumers are spending most of their time.
    • Person-to-person recommendations, which today often disseminate through the social grid, are a major influencer in buying decisions among consumers. 
    • Be careful not to dismiss these channels as only consumer-centric either; YouTube marketing strategies for B2B customers often include customer testimonials, product demos, fun topics related to an industry and viral video contests.
  • Personal

    • In the age of the social enterprise, every consumer gets a voice, and companies can address consumer issues proactively rather than reactively.
    • Public social networks are filled with consumer comments, questions, issues and opinions about the products they use. 
    • As companies tap into these networks, they can get a clearer picture of their customers and create customer social profiles. 
    • By listening to their customers, they can identify issues to resolve and turn potentially dissatisfied customers into advocates. 
    • Best of all, this can be done in real-time.

Monitoring social networks may seem like a daunting task, but social monitoring tools, such as Radian6, continuously monitor social profiles on thousands of social networks, allowing companies to mine customer ideas to enhance their products, services and messaging. 
    • The data captured builds a repository of individual issues, but also identifies macro trends in consumer sentiment, industry conditions and brand strength.

    • However, awareness of your consumer’s opinions, expectations and issues is not enough. Successful incorporation of this knowledge into an organization’s operation requires a call to action, which will require a strategy in itself. For example, Gatorade established Mission Control to monitor social networks. As a result, Gatorade has been able to track media performance; monitor sports landscape; track sports trends and buzz; track brand attributes; monitor online discussion; and perform proactive social media outreach.
  • Contextual
The personalization of the social enterprise, internally and externally, requires consumers, partners and employees to converse on the topics that are meaningful within the context of what they are doing. 
    • Customers looking for information to make an educated purchase or solve a problem need timely and relevant data. If they can’t find it, they may move on to your competitor. Smart businesses build customer social networks.

    • By building customer social networks, businesses can provide customers contextual information, answer questions and field suggestions in an open forum. 
    • Social communities have been credited with being able to satisfy human social needs, including the ability to communicate, connect, contribute and create. 
    • To be effective, communities need to be updated and managed, but the effort required to govern them is far outweighed by their impact. Take Starbucks, which has done an excellent job building communities with its initiative.

    • Contextual social interaction creates a sense of relevance for both employees and customers. 
    • Customers feel valued and important when their voices are heard, they experience assistance, or they have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge by helping someone else in the community. This interaction resonates deeply and facilitates loyalty.
  • Mobile
    • Social interactions cannot realistically be limited to captive audiences sitting at desks. 
    • The prevalence of smartphones and tablet PCs has reached an all-time high, and that trend will continue. 
    • Social enterprises are embracing mobility and are establishing a strategy for mobile devices, but they are also revolutionizing the way we work with them.

    • As they incorporate the social enterprise principle, companies are embracing mobility by establishing device strategies, challenging the status quo, and arming their employees and customers with the power of mobile information.

    • Consumers have high expectations for the products they use. It is no longer enough for systems and applications to be functional; they must also be intuitive, self-serving, and even fun to use — no matter the task.


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