This week’s SMC Amsterdam theme covered Social Enterprise, this phrase is sometimes used to describe a business that supports a non-profit organisation by its activities, but in this meeting the meaning was something like “a social media-enabled business”.

The first speaker Jurjen de Lange (@jurjendelange) does not believe that enterprise can be social. Given that a big chunk of my day to day work is about social media policies, and building an enterprise social network this was a rather confronting point of view for me.

He explained that “social” for him has meanings around fun, enjoyment, free time, and helping others, while enterprise is associated with corporations, money, profit, greed. Expressed like that there’s not much overlap. You could visualise the two as completely separate spheres.

And the dictionary agrees with him.

Definition of social from
Definition of enterprise from

Sometimes it’s good to challenge your own thinking, and listening to Jurjen speak I realised his description of enterprise doesn’t really represent what happens in the office I work in. While we all work hard there is also fun, laughter, enjoyment and plenty of evidence of people helping each other. So the people are behaving socially, while working in and for an enterprise.

While the defined “social” and “enterprise” don’t appear to overlap, they do have an element in common; people.

So why is it so difficult to build social into an enterprise? Particularly a large, established enterprise – the second speaker of the evening, Edwin van de Bospoort, explained some of the challenges facing large companies.

The number one challenge is that there is no clear owner of the problem; it sits between HR, IT, communications, marketing, and business. If there’s no clear owner then no-one sees it as their problem to solve so enabling a business to become social doesn’t land on anyone’s objectives as a priority. This is certainly true, although in a large company a CIO or Global head of HR with vision can dissolve this pretty challenge rather easily.

Bigger challenges in my experience are around the business culture, if an organisation is to be a true socially enabled then everyone in the company must believe that social tools and behaviours will help them in their day to day job, be willing to share knowledge and trust each other. If you work in a company/industry dominated by regulation and policies this is extremely difficult to change.

Edwin van de Bospoort has done more than just think about the issues facing businesses wanting to adopt social tools, he’s built what looks to be a great tool for finding expertise within a company; Sciomino. It’s unusual for a SMCAdam meeting but he gave a very brief demo of how the tool works, showing how the profile can be built up from Linkedin, how the search and discover colleagues based on their knowledge. Certainly being able to find expertise and shared interests is a huge challenge in large companies, and the audience interest showed how important solving this could be. The idea of finding colleagues based on expertise rather than family name is one of the reasons we’ve been working on an Enterprise Social Network for the past two years. We’re already seeing that people can find each other faster than by the old email chains.

I believe enterprises will be increasingly social; it’s a client expectation. In order to meet that expectation companies are going to have to adopt social tools, processes and behaviours. It makes my work incredibly interesting and challenging.


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