The term social business is often surrounded by confusion. While in the US it is a firmly established concept, in the UK it is often incorrectly attributed to terms such as social enterprise or CSR, or is used to describe a company that is active on social media. So what exactly is social business, and how does becoming one offer a competitive advantage?

Social business is an increasingly popular organisational strategy that embraces a flatter and more transparent company culture and more collaborative, mobile and social technology in the workplace. Social business is a response to a variety of technology trends, including consumerisation of IT, social media, big data and cloud computing combined with the generational shifts taking place in the office.

Social businesses utilise social tools to facilitate open communication, engage employees and share information to embrace a new age of problem solving and interaction. A social business understands the revolution in communication taking place within society and provides the tools for the whole organisation, bottom to top, to effectively work, collaborate and accomplish business goals. As a term, it is not currently widely understood, but should and will be. As new generations join the workforce and technology progresses, new methods of communication will enable organisations to derive business value from the increased transparency, collaboration and productivity afforded by social tools.

Social business at work

Over the past few years, several technologies and trends have emerged that significantly reduce our dependence on physical offices. The consumerisation of IT means our homes often have better technology than our actual office. Cloud computing makes our infrastructure, data and documents readily accessible wherever we want to use our laptops. Mobile phones and tablets are more robust than ever, so we can use the same applications on any device we choose. Technically speaking, we have the tools to do our jobs virtually from anywhere.

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