Trying to stay up-to-date with the many moving parts of social business can be a full time job today. The technologies, trends, and techniques of social media as applied to business is evolving constantly and moving so quickly that it can be difficult to understand how all the pieces currently fit together. In information technology, we have long used the stack model to break down the description of a complex system into sets of related functions. It’s not perfect in that it’s a static view, and social business is very dynamic, but it’s a good start and lets us achieve some useful intellectual control over the elements of social business and how they relate to each other.
There have been some good attempts recently to map the social business space into something more understandable. One of the most compelling is Jeremiah Owyang’s Social Business Stack for 2011. He likens the social business space to a “Cambrian explosion” of products and services, which is certainly true. But it’s also the case that some of the most critical aspects of social business aren’t products or services at all. While the vendor offerings in the social business landscape currently contain well over a thousand products, it’s just as important to have a deep understanding of the core elements that every social business effort must contain and deliver on successfully, products and otherwise.
The social business stack visual above articulates these core aspects of social business that should be the focus of any practitioner. In this view, people in social networks and the data they create and share form the first two vital layers. The delivery layer describes the physical mediation between social media and the real-world, usually the user experience (UX), though there are other ways of delivering social business experiences as well, such as with open APIs, which are just as important.
The next three layers are key enablers of social business but are less widely understood and/or mature, but are just as important. Aggregation drives efficiency in consumption and participation, while discovery and analytics makes the activities of people and the information they create much more useful over time. Management and security provide necessary abilities to govern and secure social business activities. And finally, with the business model layer, we focus on the desired outcomes, which means having a clear understanding of how your social business activities are creating value for the organization.
Note that this particular view of the social business stack is primarily one of nouns or things. There is another corresponding view of the activities of social business (the verbs), which are just as vital to the story and which I’ll post soon as well. In the next few weeks, I’ll explore the layers of the social business stack in more detail, exploring the strategic aspects and how they contribute to a healthy, vibrant, and highly enriching place to engage in high-value business activities via social media. In the meantime, I’d like to invite your commentary and contributions to expand and fill out what I’m hoping will be an authoritative view of the moving parts of social business.
The social business stack visual above has been placed in the Creative Commons. It also contains a current version number and I’ll update it periodically as we add to it the latest developments as they emerge, as well as any suggestions and criticism we receive.