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11.02.16 / OneFifty: Social business in practice

What drives people to actively support a business? To follow it, advocate it, recommend it?

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those “5 things to learn about building customer champions’ posts. Undoubtedly a superior experience can, on a functional level, elevate a company’s standing with a customer. But on an emotional level, it’s about a mission, a cause, a purpose. And, perhaps, suffering.

Yes, the suffering which goes into creating a business, growing a business, and running a business. The latter sounds counter-intuitive, but has the narrative arc of noble intentions > initial success > setbacks bravely overcome despite darkness > culminating in a happy, reflective ending. It’s one well-trodden by Hollywood and novels alike. Or consider sport: is Lionel Messi’s popularity not at least in some small part due to the seeming improbability of his outrageous talent, when the slight, shy figure stands next to the positively athenian glamour of Cristiano Ronaldo?

No-one can support something unless they feel there was suffering, or challenges in its creation. That goes against conventional B2B marketing, in particular, where the traditional playbook has been the swan method. Seamlessly gliding above the surface, whilst below the waterline feet flap violently.

Now that’s interesting when one considers ‘social business’, which has been a buzzword du jour from 2011 until recently, when it has begun to decline.

That tailing off is doubtless due to its abuse by many, who heralded it as some utopian alternative to conventional business. It was loosely defined but loudly trumpeted by adherents who, unsurprisingly, had job titles which featured it.

But, actually, there is something in a way of doing business which is social at its heart.

  • In our minds, that means the following:
    • Building a business premised on solid underlying data insights on the reality of how people behave
    • These behavioural models then allow one to organise your operations to meet those needs, emotions and patterns
    • Likewise your internal operations – organised around actual patterns of human behaviour, rather than management theories, (which to borrow Thaler, work in the world of perfectly logical ‘Econs’ but not emotional, flesh and blood humans)
    • Being more open about how we do things – based not on an airy belief in the value of transparency for its own sake (although there is some merit in this), but because:
      • Reciprocity principle – if we openly give to others the benefits of our experience, we will be rewarded in kind
      • Accountability – we aim to be excellent and showing ourselves, in all our glory and flaws, allows others to hold us to account (same principle as effective dieting and gym going – as discussed in this week’s Undercover Economist)

So, we’re going to be sharing regularly on this topic. That in our mind, is the essence of social business – to  be more human as an organisation, to discuss our triumphs, but also our challenges. To show our suffering, as we strive to bring together architects of what comes next. Because that’s the way we’ll create real supporters.

Hopefully people like you, reading this.

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