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The “social” Social Enterprise

By December 27, 2011

Social Social Enterpriseby Alicia Schmidt, Customer Success Evangelist

So there was this time, like a year ago, when I was pretty sure that I knew the definition of a “social enterprise.” Heck, I had even worked for one. As Wikipedia defines it, “A social enterprise is an organization that applies business strategies to achieving philanthropic goals.” That made sense to me, and to most of the do-gooder community.

Then came Dreamforce ’11. And a NEW “Social Enterprise” was born. I’ll admit it, coming out of 15-year-career in the nonprofit community, this confused me a little. Didn’t they know “social enterprise” was already in use? It was kind of like someone taking your baby name and giving it to his or her new puppy. Unexplainably, a little bit, frustrating.

Then I started listening to the vision that Marc Benioff and was laying out at Dreamforce. And I realized that this “social” social enterprise was an important set of concepts that was not only relevant to the for-profit companies that make up the bulk of’s customers, but also to our growing community of nonprofit users.

In fact, I would even argue that the nonprofit community was better positioned to understand and implement the core ideas of a salesforce “social enterprise” than their for-profit counterparts. After all, most nonprofits have long relied on a sort of “social” engagement to further their cause.

At its core, the “social” social enterprise is really just about a new model of constituent engagement enabled by emerging technologies – a new model that is vitally important if you want to maintain and grow the community that serves your mission.

To me, the “social” social enterprise is really about:

1. Creating a Collaborative Community

A lot of nonprofits have worked over the years to create collaborative constituent communities to help them solve social problems. They have seen, first-hand, the benefits of crowd-sourcing ideas and solutions, building consensus, and driving collective action.

As technology evolves, those collaborations can now extend beyond the local, become global and real-time, and grow exponentially. The benefits of a collaborative culture can be recognized both internally, with a staff that works efficiently across silos and departments, and externally, with a community that is able to learn and gain power from one another. The platform is well suited to enable this type of collaboration.

If you are not taking advantage of them already, you should explore the benefits of ChatterSalesforce for Twitter and FacebookCommunities, and Radian6. Some of these products are included in your discounted licenses at no additional cost, and some of them (like Radian6) are offered by the Foundation at a deep discount.

2. Engagement is Personal

Generally speaking, the more you know about someone, the better you can connect them to your cause and motivate them to action. Many nonprofits have chosen Salesforce because of its powerful ability to track and create personal experiences and interactions with your donors, clients, volunteers, and all the people that help you achieve your mission.

Engagement, these days, is also a lot more about your cause, than your institution. Individuals are motivated to gather around a certain problem and solution, with influencers leading the way. It is more important now than ever to be certain that you understand who is talking about and gaining traction on your issue(s), so that you can actively participate in these networks and acknowledge supporters.

To make sure you are getting the most of Salesforce in this way, take a look at Social Contacts, build custom Apps with Force.comSalesforce for Twitter and FacebookRadian6, (and for client service check out LiveAgentContact Center, and Communities).

3. The World is increasingly Mobile, Social and Real Time

Yep. There are lots of stats out there about the explosive growth of mobile devices and social networks, but by experience, I think, we all know this is true. The last time I left the house without my smart phone, I saw a lot more of the world, but I had to, gasp, ask someone for directions (they looked it up on their phone), and wait for the bus with NO IDEA when it was coming. I know, first-world problems . . .

The lesson here is that more and more of your constituents and clients expect you to interact with them where they are, in real time. Your staff, too, benefits from having access to all the important information they need wherever they are and being able to interact with their colleagues and clients in that moment. After the (so-called) Arab Spring and Occupy protests last year, we have to recognize the power of mobile and social in bringing individuals together in collective action in real time and space.

Many nonprofits are imagining delivering programs and services in innovative new ways – new ways that better serve clients, staff, and funders. With Force.comHeroku, and the upcoming, creating mobile and social apps is going to become quicker and easier.

If you have a “social” social enterprise vision, let help you implement it and ultimately increase the impact of your social “good” enterprise.