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Why ‘Social Business’ doesn’t work

When I wrote one of the first books about what was then referred to as Enterprise 2.0, it was because I saw a trend whereby the social collaboration that was emerging on the web would move inside the firewall as companies strove for greater and better communication, cooperation, collaboration and connections amongst employees.

Fast forward a couple of years, and some of those early entrepreneurs that helped me with quotes, case studies and insight, such as Headshift’s Lee Bryant, have turned it into good business (Headshift was acquired by Jeff Dachis’ Dachis Group in September 2009, and the group has since acquired many others).

With the maturity of the industry, there has also been a change in how it gets referred to. Out goes ‘Enterprise 2.0’ (“too narrow, too corporate and too managerial!” says Euan Semple) and in comes ‘Social Business’ (there’s a good primer by Dion Hinchcliffe on ZDNet).

As I reflect on what I wrote two years ago, and recall the debates I had in my own head about the pros and cons of using the ‘Enterprise 2.0’ monicker as the title for the book, I can’t help but feel the same way about ‘Social Business’.

The fundamental problem for me is that fact that – in the UK at least – social business already means something else; a different industry of, according to the venerable Wikipedia, “non-loss, non-dividend companies designed to address a social objective.” The social objectives in this case are not how you get employees to share knowledge using micro-blogs, though. They are societal objectives such as health, housing, sanitation and nutrition.

So, social business, whilst certainly softer and less “corporate” than Enterprise 2.0, still doesn’t work for me. We need to find a new descriptor for this growing industry – one that distinguishes it from externally-facing ‘social media’ and cause-based ‘social enterprise’.

Answers on a postcard, please…