Social Business in Europe, not what you might think.

Or maybe it’s exactly what you think. The problem of having the same name for two quite different definitions can be confusing. Doing a search of “Social Business in Europe” shows you exactly what I mean.

Social Business in EuropeYou can’t see the forest through the trees. As a tried and true metaphor, it explains my point exactly. In an earlier post I described both versions, and the relation between the two, and you’ll see one variation gets completely overgrown by the other.

When you search, and look around on the web, Social Business in Europe is predominantly about the Prof. Yunus definition of Social Business.

For me, as a Social Business professional this is a bit disconcerting. Because I follow Peter Kim’s definition of the term. I focus on the goings on within a company, how they communicate, how they share knowledge and engage with their employees, partners and customers.

In essence, I don’t care how they make a profit.

Why is this a problem?

Well, image some executive hears about Social Business in Europe. Some partner or even a competitor is very happy with their Social Business implementation. Having nice results because of it. Getting their Social Media under control, having proper on-line conversations and happy employees. All smiles, all around (it can happen).

Now this executive does the Google thing and is hard pressed to find anything related to what he heard during lunch.

What he does find is a lot of information on Social Business as depicted by Prof. Yunus.

OK, so why is that a problem?

Because this executive is going to abandon his search really quick when he finds out that according to Yunus’ definition of Social Business, his company needs to change the way it does business and needs to become socially responsible in a way that requires him to uproot his entire business process. Or at least part of it.

He’s not going to do that. And chances are, he won’t pursue the idea for some time. Missing out on the great benefits of having a Social Business according to Kim’s definition.

Now, I love the idea of Yunus’ Social Business, the concept is tantalising and the fact that the EU is picking this up is very promising. I do believe it’s a very important part of building a sustainable society.

However, not every company is ready for this, far from it, hardly any company is ready for this.

It is happening

A Google search on “Social Business in Europe” might lead you to believe we don’t practice Kim’s version of Social Business. The opposite is quite true. Rawn Shah did a write up following the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris, earlier this year.

Rawn says:

Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business are reaching a stage of maturity in Europe with detailed cases from mid and large-sized organizations from a wide range of industries, headquartered in various European countries.

Even Microsoft Netherlands is doing a great job moving into the Social Business sphere.

The Difference

The difficulty lies in the different definitions of Social Business. Although both firmly rooted in “Social”, both have a very different impact on business. So much so, that a clear distinction has to be made when looking for a certain solution.

And let’s face it, most established companies will be looking for the Enterprise 2.0 version of Social Business.

Social Business in Europe

I know the two definitions are sticking. One comes from the US and is generating considerable traction. Books are written and businesses are build around the term.

The other comes from Bangladesh and, apparently, is getting momentum too, only on a different continent.

One is rooted in business and aims to create a more inspiring working environment leading to more streamlined and resilient company. The other a business which aims to create “new kind of capitalism that serves humanity’s most pressing needs”.

Quite a difference. Heck, Wikipedia doesn’t even recognize the first, they refer to Social Media.

Bottom line (literally), when you’re searching for a Social Business solution, make sure you get the right answers.

Social Business is not about Social, it’s about Business. And that’s not always a good thing.

I need to get this off my chest, then I’ll stop with the rants… it’s just been bugging me for a long time.

You see.., I think we’re missing the point. And not by a little bit either. We all know, or should know by now, that the way we live in a non-sustainable society. Meaning, it will end, probably in a very dramatic way.

social business is not about socialSocial Business is probably the best opportunity we have to create awareness and generate responsibility. People need to live more consciously, more awake. But, we’re missing the point and with that, a golden opportunity.

Wind Turbines

A metaphor then: You must have noticed these huge, ugly, noisy mastodons, polluting our horizons and beautiful views.

Although their net-energy is positive, I can’t help thinking about the motivation for building these things. In Holland, in the Flevopolder, farmers get paid to put them up, it’s a hideous sight. The landscape is littered with hundreds of turbines. Different in size and strewn all over the place. There is no ecological motivation behind this.., heck, there is no ecological motivation behind the whole Flevopolder, it’s all economical.

Where I live now (the south of Belgium), a councilman was pushing the placement of a wind farm nearby. Although he didn’t have the authority, and no wind study was made for the location, he almost succeeded in starting the project. Anything else than personal gain is difficult to imagine.

Focussing on generating and storing energy locally (in your home or neighbourhood) is much, much more sustainable. But that would mean, giving up grid connected, chargeable control. And that’s not going to happen.


Talk about a prominent place in society. The biggest supermarket chain in Holland (again Holland? Yes, I’m Dutch, remember?) has replaced it’s “Organic” label for “Pure & Honest”. Very smart, “Organic” is a protected label in The Netherlands. You cannot put it on a label unless it really is 100% organic.

Now that ‘they’ don’t have to worry about the label, they can promote “Pure & Honest” as “with extra care for people, animal, nature or environment produced, grown or bought”. This is, of course, not true.., sadly. All sorts of taste enhancers, E-numbers and animal unfriendly, bio industry elements are found in the products.., and that’s just the things we know about.

They pretend to be social, but they’re really not. Despite their obvious responsibility.

Social Business

By now, I’m sure that many companies implement Social Business to gain an economical advantage. And yes, that’s important. It’s why you run a business, to make money. We have to please the stake- and shareholders.

And companies that sell “Social Business” need to turn a profit too. So, the one is sustaining the other, economically speaking. Both missing the point on real sustainability and societal responsibilities.

I’m generalising here. I’m sure there are those that really do have the individual in mind. That believe changing the every day goings on of employees could make them happy and more engaged in the company, resulting in all sorts of benefits for that company.

And yes, “happy” and “engagement” are quantifiable emotions. I’m sick of people saying these are unrealistic, unmeasurable and non-business terms. They are very real, they are very human, and they also have a very real impact on a business. A happy employee is an engaged employee, an engaged employee is a productive employee. H+E=P

One simple way to quantify this is to just ask.

Talk to them, find out what they think about the company and how it could change for the better.


As with the “organic” label in Europe.., the label “Social Business” should be protected. Social Business Consultants should be certified through an open source qualification program. Proven knowledge and motivation.

“Social Business” is hyping at the moment and companies are sticking the label anywhere it can stick. Either, so they can sell it, or so they can claim to be one. But, SocBiz isn’t a hype, it’s a very real evolution. And if you don’t get it right, say you only focus on a piece of technology, you won’t get there.

If becoming a Social Business prevents your business from expiring, than you can’t just focus on the economical gain. Heck, economical gain and a higher ROI are (very beneficial) by-products of a successful change. They’re part of the plan of course, but not the driving force.

People are.

Mea Culpa

I’m a Social Business Consultant. And when I need to advice a company, the bottom line is, of course, the unavoidable issue; the ROI has to be met.

But, I just love the philosophy behind the whole thing. I even consider myself a Corporate Rebel and I truly believe Social Business can have a (very) positive effect on society. But in order to that, we need to focus on the right elements of Social Business.

Call it societal gain over economical gain. I know.., I know. It’s so scary, letting the reigns loosen up a bit, transferring responsibilities, trust employees or citizens to do the right thing, very scary. But, if we keep fooling them, and we keep fooling ourselves, then we’ll simply won’t get there. We’ll simply never be able to create a (truly) sustainable society.

And if we can’t do that, there is only one other possible outcome.., societal collapse. And it wouldn’t be the first time either.., every other society before us has collapsed, no exception, none have survived the Test of Time and the Trials of Men.

We now have the knowledge and the technology to turn it around, to do it right.., just for once.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Do your business goals and social goals align?

We know by know Social Media/Business is something you can’t “just do”. Or, you can, but that’s missing the point and wasting time, effort and money.

In “The Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy“, the latest publication from the Altimeter Group, written by Charlene Li and Brian Solis, the alignment between business objectives and social strategy is put front and centre.
alignementNow we can say, with authority, that Social has come of age. That we no longer can treat it as something we “just have to do”. Time to grow up.

It makes sense when you think about it. Anything a company does, any effort it makes should align with the company’s goals. Even charity or pro-bono work should, in one form or another, fit into “the greater plan”. It’s the only way to make sure that everything you do, as a business, is worth the effort.

Have a Coke

Coca-Cola has created a strategy to rival most out there. Basically it states that any expression should fit into the overall story being told by the company. Creating a fluidity where anybody can add or use content, as long as it abides to a few rules.
And the overall story is aligned with the company’s goals.

Coca-Cola is one of the most recognized brands in the world and a huge enterprise. Their resources seem infinite and implementing a plan like this seems easy enough. But, Coke is a world-wide brand with almost 150 thousand employees, and despite its resources, aligning anything is not an easy task.., at all.

The message is; If Coke can do it on such a huge scale.., surely we can do this in a smaller (and more controllable) environment.

The Seven

This list is simply fantastic.

It’s one of those pieces of information that makes you go.., hmmmmm…. Silly really, because each point on that list is common sense for most major projects and changes. Yet, with social media we tend to ignore proper business altogether.

The Seven Success Factors of Social Business StrategyHere’s the list:

  1. Define the overall business goals
  2. Establish the long-term vision
  3. Ensure executive support
  4. Define the strategy roadmap
  5. Establish governance and guidelines
  6. Secure staff, resources, and funding
  7. Invest in technology platforms that evolve

You need to read the book for all the details of course, but coming from Altimeter you can rely on  a proper foundation of the information.

As said, it makes sense. For instance, executive support (3) is paramount to success. Especially if you want to secure staff and resources (6). To invest in technology (7) you need funding (6). And in order to define the roadmap (4) you need to know the goals (1) and you have to establish the long-term vision (2).

See? It makes total sense…

Align your Efforts

The point of matter is that when (not if) you decide to start the social business journey you (really) should make the effort to do it right. I know, this is easier said than done. The Why? is pretty clear by now, it’s the How? we get stuck on. The “The Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy” can help you create the vision you need to support the necessary passion.

So, just do it, but do it right. There is enough information out there to support you, and more and more professionals to guide you. No more excuses.

Do you have a Social Business Strategy?