Holding back the tide

David Terrar recently argued that social media consultants should drop the “social business” moniker and start using “amplified business” instead. His reasoning was that the term “social business” has become too ingrained in people’s minds with “social enterprise” and not “social media”.

While I’m sure a lot of you will be thinking “Well, what’s the difference there, anyway?!”, here’s the comment I posted on David’s blog in response:

This is an important debate. The problem is, it’s all too easy to get bogged down in technology again. You say the common perception of “social business” doesn’t involve “micro-blogging, collaboration and social media monitoring”.

But, as I’m sure you constantly tell clients: micro-blogging and social media monitoring (as with any other aspect of the social media toolkit) are not ends in themselves, they are simply the means to an end.

And if the social media consultants’ version of social business is NOT about technology, but about people (as I think you agree), then we need to focus on what exactly it is that the people (our clients) are trying to achieve.

Okay, I agree it’s possible that a client may work for Mr.Evil Inc. In which case, his/ her goals will be along those lines familiar to any James Bond fan: world domination, unrestricted access to global resources and endless pots of money for Mr.Evil.

But, to give them their due, most modern organisations are at least trying to shake off this sort of image. If today’s businesses do not actually have a social conscience, philanthropic goals and ethical conduct, they are, at least, pretending to (some more convincingly than others).

Ironically, the number one tool for putting an ethical gloss on business is social media, but any company that’s become tarred by social media appreciates that its pretty much impossible to preach humane values without practicing them.

As I wrote on this blog a few months back, the wheel has come full circle. To my mind, social business (as social media consultants define it) and social business (as social entrepreneurs see it), are two sides of the same coin. They are both about putting people first. And ethical and environmental concerns are fundamental to any people-centric approach.

By the way, as King Cnut (or Canute) himself knew, it’s never easy to reverse a wave. As O’Reilly’s Josh Ross wrote a while back: railing against the popular lexicon is always a losing bet.

Having said all that, please keep me posted on the Amplified Enterprise meetup – I’d love to have a further rant!

Big thanks to James Yu for the photo.

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