4 Major Constraints to Becoming a Social Business

by Jay Deragon on 11/04/2013


The word constraint means the threat or use of force to prevent, restrict, or dictate the action or thought of others. While the market wants businesses to be more social there are some major constraints preventing businesses from meeting the expectations of the market.  Until the constraints are removed use of the term “social business” will continue to be meaningless or worse insulting to the market.

Brian Solis published a report titled “The State of Social Business 2013 which states: “Analysis of our survey results reveal that social media is extending deeper into organizations and, at the same time, strategies are maturing.”  In terms of social business maturity, most organizations are “intermediate,” with only 17% who are truly strategic in the execution of their social strategies. The lack of clear leadership, organization, and strategy means that many organizations experience some form of “social anarchy,” of siloed, uncoordinated social efforts. The rest of The State of Social Business 2013 report addresses the strategies, tactics, tools and resources used to implement social media.

It would seem that the term “Social Business” ought to represent more than a set of strategies, tactics, tools and resources if it is to truly create anything meaningful. In my own view The State of Social Business in 2013 has more to do with the constraints than any strategy, tactic, tool or resource.  And the four biggest constraints are:

Constraint #1: Lack of a Leadership Philosophy

The strategies, tactics, tools and added headcount mentioned in the report cannot create a “Social Business” without a transformation in leadership philosophy.  While the behavior and beliefs of the market of buyers has indeed changed business leaders have’t changed their own beliefs about business rather they have simply adjusted old strategies, applied new tools and tactics and called themselves a “Social Business”. The first constraint to creating meaning to the word social in business is the lack of transformation in leadership philosophy. This is both the first and the biggest constraint because it requires personal change from leaders.

Constraint #2: Cultures without Purpose

Culture circleDeloitte released a report titled Culture of purpose: a business imperative which was designed to explore the concept of workplace culture, as defined by a set of timeless core values and beliefs, as a business driver. The report examines the connection between an organizations clear purpose and its impact on clients, markets served, employees and society. Creating a meaningful impact beyond financial performance is becoming the new imperative. Cultures that create meaningful impact with a purpose emphasize the intangible things that create tangible results.

Those who say their company has a strong sense of purpose demonstrated strong financial performance. Chasing the results without the other is meaningless. It is like calling yourself a social business because you’ve adopted the use of social strategies, tactics and tools but don’t understand the needed philosophical change to actually be social and not simply acting like you are social. People can see right through those strategies just as they can see through your lack of purpose.

Constraint #3: Changing the Wrong Thing

Technology is changing a lot of things and accelerating everything to change. Most business leaders view technology as a tool of organizational efficiency and effectiveness which improves productivity and profitability. While pursuing the tangible results of efficiency and effectiveness many miss the changes to the intangible things that matter to the market. You may be asking yourself “What intangible things matter to the market?” Smarter Companies have shown that such things include human, relationship, strategic and structural capital.

If you don’t focus on identifying your intangibles, measuring how well they perform for your stakeholders then you can’t possibly learn to improve what matters. Calling yourself a “social business” doesn’t matter as much as improving what matters. See #1 and #2 above.

Constraint #4: Taking Too long To Change

As a rule of thumb, most successful business-culture changes are fast and not slow. The most obvious examples of this can be seen in the studies of successful mergers and acquisitions: the faster the acquisition or merger is “put to bed,” the more likely it is to be successful. The same principle applies to making changes in a marketplace where change is the imperative. Whether it is recognizing the need to transform your leadership philosophy, creating a culture of purpose or learning to change the right things. The only remaining thing of importance is the speed at which you change.

Taking too long to change simply tells stakeholders their input doesn’t matter.

If you think a new strategy, tactic, tool or more resources will make your business social then I would suggest you think again. You are not likely to pay a consultant to tell you this but the real answer to becoming a social business is in the mirror. Look harder.

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