The challenges facing global businesses and the people who lead them are now, more than ever, intertwined in the direct empowerment and involvement of customers and stakeholders. The World Wide Web— described by Sir Tim Berners-Lee as “an interactive sea of shared knowledge…made of the things we and our friends have seen, heard, believe or have figured out”—has dramatically accelerated the shift to consumer-driven markets.
For millennia, power has rested with those resources: first with land, then capital, and most recently, information. In a socially connected marketplace, shared knowledge is now emerging as the ultimate resource. Information wants to be free, and in these new markets it is: free of constraints on place, free of control on content, and free of restrictive access on consumption.
Social technologies, on a mass scale, connect people in ways that facilitate sharing information, thereby reducing the opportunities for marketplace exploitation—whether by charging more than a competing supplier for otherwise identical goods and services or charging anything at all for products that simply don’t work. Sunlight is a powerful disinfectant, and the collective knowledge that powers the Social Web is the sunlight that shines in these new connected marketplaces.
The Social Web dramatically levels the playing field by making information plentiful, just as it also levels businesses and organizations that operate on the principles of making information scarce. The Social Web exposes the good, the bad, and the ugly, simultaneously raising up what works and putting down what doesn’t without regard for the interests of any specific party. Web 2.0 technologies—expressed through social CRM, vendor relationship management, collective ideation, customer-driven support forums, and communities where participants engage in all forms of social discourse—act together to equalize the market positions of suppliers, manufacturers, business and organizational leaders, customers and stakeholders.
To again quote Sir Tim Berners-Lee, “If misunderstandings are the cause of many of the world’s woes, then (we can) work them out in cyberspace. And, having xviii n t ro du c t I o n ■ worked them out, we leave for those who follow a trail of our reasoning and assumptions for them to adopt, or correct.” So whether supporting Unilever, P&G, and Nestlé, all working with Greenpeace to ensure supplier compliance in the use of sustainable palm oil and thereby reducing environmental damage in no-longer “far away” places like Malaysia, or just making someone’s day run a little more smoothly by preventing a coffee stain through a simple innovation like Starbucks’ “no splash” stirring stick, the businesses and organizations embracing social technologies are delivering better solutions—developed through direct collaboration with customers and stakeholders—to the world’s woes however large or small they may be. Contemporary businesses, cause-based organizations, and governing authorities are increasingly meeting the challenge of “opening up” and operating with their customers and stakeholders—often through a similarly empowered and connected workforce—to deliver self-evident value that gets talked about.
For these entities, their customers, suppliers, and stakeholders are the new source of future innovations and “marketing,” and therefore also the drivers of long-term growth and success. This is what social business is all about.
How to Use This Book
This book has three parts: Taking a tip from one of the reviewers of my prior book, I’ve written this one so that you don’t have to read the whole book! I recognize that you were already busy before you purchased this book and that the true cost of any social media program—at least at the outset—very much includes the opportunity cost of your time. So, here’s how the book works.
Social Business Fundamentals
At just over 100 pages, Part I will get you up-to-speed quickly on the primary aspects of social technology and how it applies to business. Its four chapters include plenty of examples and references to experts and thought leaders freely accessible via the Web, along with a set of “hands-on” exercises that will provide you with a firm grasp of social technology, applied to business
Run a Social Business
Part II takes you deeper into the application of social technology to your business or organization, showing you how business decisions are informed through collaborative software and surrounding processes. Part II provides a starting point for measurement and, like Part I, includes references and pointers that quickly take you further as you develop your specific social business programs and initiatives. Part II concludes with a set of tips and best practices, along with a couple of things not to do—and what to do instead.