Social Enterprise – Social Media Club Amsterdam

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.


image network

Does Twittering Make You Happy?

The theme for tonight’s Social Media Club Amsterdam was “the influence of social networking on your level of happiness”.

The presentation came from Philip de Wulf of Het Leefritme Kenniscentrum (The Life-Rhythm Knowledge Centre – it does sound better in Dutch) who have researched this question.

They’ve come to some interesting conclusions; people who are happiest are either very involved in social media, or not at all involved. They haven’t yet researched why this might be, but one suggestion from the audience was that since happiness seems to come easiest to people who have control or autonomy in their lives perhaps these two groups show that – one by committing to social media, one by opting out.

There was an interesting discussion around the meaning of the word friend, which came about because “unfriend” was word of the year for 2009. The consensus seemed to be that this could only be the word of the year because social media has, in a sense, devalued the value of “friend”, and most people were clear that they would never “unfriend” a real friend in real life.

But almost everyone in the room saw real value in virtual friendships, with a couple of people commenting that at some point you may feel the drive to meet these real friends. I agree with both statements; last year I contributed to a wedding of a virtual friend who was stuck between visa limits, no job and no close family – I may never meet her. I also flew to Prague to meet up with 3 virtual friends.

Social Dimensions

Like all good consultants they have come up with a two-by-two matrix that neatly divides the world into four types – something like the graph at right.

Focused relators aren’t necessary lonely according the Philip de Wulf, just they focus on a smaller group of contacts. The virtual connectors are highly active online, but less visible as social at real world events. Traditional socials are active at real events, but not so active online. The group under discussion is the “new open socials” which was about 25% of the research subjects but about 90% of the audience.

The question was posed “will new open socials encounter a culture shock in the workplace?”. I’m not sure, even my company – a rather conservative financial services company – is trying to find ways to make work more 2.0, and for many roles I would see “new open socials” has having an advantage in new ways of hiring and working.

I think I’m probably in the group “new open socials” so I might be biased, but I find the social media tools fun to use in themselves and it has help me maintain and build relationships – sometimes across the world, through it I will see photos of my nephew when he arrives in summer, because of it I get to share the ideas on communication with quirky experts. So for me social media does contribute to my happiness.

So does twittering make you happy?

The third Social Media Club Amsterdam Meeting will take place on 17 February and registration is already open for it.