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Lost in Translation: The Term “Social Business”

There has been a lot of talk lately both internally among TheCR team and in the social world about the use of the words Social vs. Networked vs. Collaborative vs Enterprise 2.0.  There is even an article titled “Social Business” is Bullshit.  And we agree…sort of.

Yes, the concept of change management has been around for a long time.  And the term social business is definitely sexier and seems more action-oriented.  But the truth is we need a new term because as many people point out, business is already social. Some term that shows how things are changing vs. the former state. Today, there are new tools that enable people to connect and form relationships in ways that were impossible during the change management era.  Social tools are what have done that. Social tools help scale relationships. Taking what we know to be good solid business and scaling it and adapting it to today’s modern online connected environment is what we want to convey.

And so far the vast majority of the market participants favor the words “Social” and “Social Business” over others.

If we are going to talk about listening to people and building relationships we also need to communicate with them in a common language.  And it is not just the agency folk, consultants and analysts who use the word social.  It has been adopted by more mainstream audiences.

Rachel Happe prefers the word networked.  But that hasn’t taken off amongst our audience so we could use it…but it wouldn’t resonate and that seems foolish.  I like the word collaborative because I feel it conveys what we’re trying to get our various business constituencies (vendor, customer, employee) to do.  But Ayelet Baron has heard the word collaboration so much that to her it seems meaningless.  So even we at TheCR are using the words “social” and “social business,”  although we find those words to be lacking.

This debate reminds me of my last work assignment.  I was working in the work/life space.  And there was lots of talk about how it was all life and the word balance shouldn’t be used because there was no balance.  After 3 years of trying to re-educate everyone on what the right words were. I gave up as did my peers.  The world had settled on work-life balance…and so did we. We still hope someday it will change, but we’ve stopped tilting at windmills trying to make it happen.

Do you agree that the term “Social Business” is not quite right?  What term would you use?



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