Rise of the Social Business Architect

Rise of the Social Business Architect

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The world is changing and needs Social Business Architects. Gone is the epoch of the passive consumer, now customers want a say. At the same time, the quest for survival and growth is causing companies to stop looking at suppliers as someone to squeeze on price and instead as partners in innovation. And, employers are realizing that to maximize their success they need to attract and engage the best talent not just into internal talent pools, but external ones as well.

Social Business Architecture IntersectionIt feels like you can’t go a day without hearing someone or some publication mention Facebook, Twitter or some other component of the social media universe. The fact is that social media has invaded the public consciousness and people are now more suspicious of someone who doesn’t have a social media presence than someone who does. People are starting to judge others based on their Facebook or LinkedIn profile they ever meet them, and expecting companies to answer the tweet they’ve sent them or the question they’ve posted on their Facebook wall within the day, the hour, the minute (believe me the expected pace of response is accelerating).

Social media has become so important and pervasive that it is beginning to co-opt the term ‘social business’ into its lexicon to describe an organization’s engagement with people outside of its borders across a variety of channels and for a variety of purposes. Social media is stealing the term ‘social business’ away from the social enterprise folks, and that’s okay – they can’t possibly use ‘social business’ and ‘social enterprise’ at the same time anyways.

The importance of ‘social business’ and social business design has grown as our technologies have matured from contact management to customer relationship management (CRM) systems, from bulletin boards to discussion forums, from static to dynamic html, from social networks to social media, and from media consumer to media producer. Ultimately ‘social business’ is the science of optimizing the intersection of people, process, and technology. If we look at ‘social business’ as the discipline managing that intersection and helping an organization focusing on how it engages with others and maximizes the value of its relationships, I’ve been working in social business for more than 15 years as what I like to call a Social Business Architect.

Social Business Architecture EcosystemIn addition to facilitating and optimizing the group dynamics and interactions inside the organization, a Social Business Architect specializes in identifying the different parts of an organization that need to interact with groups of people outside the organization, how those parts of the organization should work together to communicate with people outside the organization, and helps to identify and implement communications solutions that connect the organization with the target groups so that a meaningful connection and conversation can be built, and then helps to manage the conversations and the information and learnings from their outcomes for the benefit of the organization.

A Social Business Architect keeps the organizations focused on the goals of its relationships with the outside, works with the organization’s technologists and other specialists in other departments to enable the necessary conversations to take place for the benefit of the organization.

From building Symantec’s first web-based multi-lingual technical support and customer service capabilities to working with the Windows Live team at Microsoft to building the world’s most popular innovation community centered around http://innovationexcellence.com, I’ve seen the importance of finding the right intersection between primary connection points and sources of value for the community to establish itself, grow and thrive.

To build a successful community and attract talent to your organization you must try to identify as an organization what resources you already have (or could create) that will have some value to the community that you are trying to build. These sources of value to the community could be:

  1. Financial
  2. Informational
  3. Educational
  4. Social
  5. Or come from another store of value

You must give people a reason to want to connect with you and to stay close – and yes, hopefully contribute over time.

In addition to identifying the value that you can bring to the community you must also identify which connection points will multiply the attractive power of the sources of value you choose to focus on. There are three primary connection points to consider:

1. Passion – One of the ways that you can attract people to your community is to leverage the power of passion. Seek to identify what people are passionate about when it comes to your company or your products. Passion can be extremely contagious. Is there a way that you can inject the passion that people may have for your company or products into your community?

2. Purpose – Another connection point to consider is to tap into the power of purpose. Not all organizations are committed to serving a larger social purpose, but all can consider introducing elements of public outreach or philanthropy that the community can engage with and feel good about contributing to. Are you building walls to keep people out? Or are you creating something that people can feel a part of?

Social Business Architecture Attraction3. Fun – And don’t forget the power of fun. One of the ways of connecting people to your community is to have something fun for people to do. Recognize people for their participation in your community in fun and different ways to keep them interested and engaged, and have some fun reinforcing the ethos of the community.

And when you bring the right sources of value together with the right connection points that is when the magic of attraction and engagement happens and a community starts to grow its membership and participation. But we are not just seeking to build a community; we are looking to activate it as well (to get people engaged, contributing, discussing, connecting, etc.).

Social Business Architecture EngagementThis is where Social Business Architects prove their worth to the organization. They can use social media, digital communications, value analysis, and other collaborative tools to help organizations attract and engage customers, partners and employees to help the organization achieve its commercial goals. Whether the future direction of your social business architecture includes beginning collaborative innovation, increasing employee retention, building stronger partnerships, growing customer lifetime value, or another effort, be sure that you are involving the Social Business Architects in your organization to help set the right goals and find the right tools to ensure the effort’s success. Only then will you put your organization on the path it needs to be to transform itself from an internally focused product and service factory to a truly internally and externally focused and integrated social business capable of sustainable innovation, retention of the growing millennial work force, long-term customer relationships and loyalty, and true partnerships with its vendors and suppliers for mutual benefit.

Are you ready to architect a social business foundation under your organization?

Download a PDF version of this article

For more on this topic, check out the white paper I published with Innocentive:

Harnessing the Global Talent Pool to Accelerate Innovation

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll probably enjoy the next articles in my social business and pull marketing series:

Marketing Innovation – Upside Down Social Web Design

Push or Pull Marketing for Innovations?

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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a Social Business Architect and the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden is also a popular innovation speaker and trainer, and advises companies on embedding innovation across the organization and how to attract and engage customers, partners, and employees.

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19 Responses to Rise of the Social Business Architect

  1. Pingback: Rise of the Social Business Architect | Braden Kelley

  2. This is a very good and very timely post about the discipline of Social Business Architect and I dare say that most enterprises don’t yet know that they don’t know that this role is needed.

    I gather that you are saying that a Social Business Architect transcends the disciplines of Community Manager or Social Media Manager?

    Is there any best place for a SBA to reside in an organisation, or does it not matter?

    Walter @adamson
    @igo2 Group

    • Braden Kelley says:

      Hello Walter,

      A few years ago most people didn’t know that they should have an Innovation Manager (or an Innovation Director or Chief Innovation Officer) to pursue innovation excellence in the same way that a COO pursues operational excellence. Thankfully many organizations have realized that collaborative innovation requires resources to organize and manage the business’ efforts in that area, but many organizations still are not there yet.

      And collaborative innovation is but one component of Social Business Architecture.

      Over time more forward looking organizations will begin to see that they need to consciously structure their efforts to make their business more social in order to attract and engage customers, partners, and employees. Whether they choose to staff the role with an employee (or employees) or contract it out, in the same way that IT departments hire software architects, remains to be seen.

      The role of Social Business Architect is more of a strategic role that would help provide some direction to the efforts of a Community Manager or Social Media Manager.

      I would expect that we will see Marketing departments be the first home for Social Business Architects because companies have created budgets for social media and the responsibility for customers and partners usually lies with Marketing, but I could see a forward-thinking HR Director looking at creating HR 2.0 implement Social Business Architecture within Human Resources from the employee and talent management angle.

      All the best,


  3. Chris Taylor says:

    It is great to see people recognizing that social, while grass roots in the personal world, needs thoughtful planning in the world of business. I’ve said for a while now that “Social without structure is chaos”. We can’t assume that what works well amongst friends has value in business.

    What it comes down to in our workplace is collaboration and communication. Those two things have been around forever, but the technology enables it in new ways. If we don’t ‘architect’ the use of the new technology, it will not be useful and will create cynicism around what should be a very powerful new way to work.

    • Braden Kelley says:

      Thanks for the comment Chris.

      Having worked in the social aspects of business and helping clients use collaborative tools to further their organization’s goals for over a decade, it is important to remember that the current social media explosion only provides a set of shiny new tools.

      The tools should not be the focus. Nobody cares what kind of hammer somebody used to build a building, they care about how well the space you’ve built works and whether it adds value to their life. A good architect creates great spaces where people want to spend time and invite others to.

      I could say more but I’ll stop there. :-)

      All the best,


  4. I think Architect is the perfect term for the described role. Businesses will require both the internal structure and the external polish to deliver on the expectations of a social business model.

    My first impression is that Marketing MBA’s would be a good start for this type of role for their understanding of presences and operations. I have met some Engineering managers over the years though that would be great at this role.

    • Braden Kelley says:

      Thanks for the comment Kevin.

      Every business is by its nature a social entity.

      People who can see the big picture and identify where value comes from will make the best Social Business Architects.

      The question becomes, do you consciously design this social entity’s interactions with its customers, partners, and employees, or do you let the relationships lie fallow or even worse – control the actions of entity in a haphazard, disorganized way?

      All the best,


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  7. ramesh babu r says:

    this is a very good article.the title of the article “Rise of the Social Business Architect”says everthing to the people..And is very good and yes its our duty to know about this.

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  15. Jonathan Lehman says:

    There needs to be a clear and defined delineation between Enterprise Social and Social Media. Social Business (or Enterprise Social) DOES NOT equal Social Media used by the business.

    Enterprise Social is Enterprise 2.0 in action. It is how the internal organization adopts and uses Social tools and techniques to promote collaboration, identify SMEs and be a knowledge repository.

    Social Media is the use of the common social tools (FB, Twitter, rtc) outward efforts to engage with customers – provide 2-way communication vs. the old one-way push of a website.

    The Enterprise Social Architect should not be from Marketing. It is an Enterprise Systems Analyst with Human Capital (process engineering, business operations, Enterprise Systems expertise, etc)

    The Social Media Architect should be part of Marketing – but needs to work tightly with the Enterprise Social Architect.

    Just my $.02, I’ve been an Enterprise Social Architect for nearly 3 years and have studied and have had to correct this confusion at length.

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