Best of 2010: The Future of Business is Social

Social media and marketing have become synonymous over the years. At the same time, social media is placing the customer back in customer service. Each movement represents important and overdue (r)evolutions within business, but this is just the beginning. With every step toward progress we make in social media, we uncover what’s necessary to make real headway in the progress of progress.

The future of business is social and as such, every aspect of business affected by outside activity will require a social extension. Businesses must shift from reacting to the outside in, bottom up groundswell to also leading a top down, inside out program to earn relevance, community, and authority. In order to do so, the social business will take a human touch…and internal transformation.

At the moment, it is the champion who ignites change from within. They understand how social affects business dynamics and builds support among key players to engage. Typically marketing and/or customer service run pilot programs to prove the merit of new media. From there, trials graduate to ongoing initiatives dedicated to social marketing, service or both. It starts with listening and monitoring and evolves to reactive engagement. Through strategy and creative processes, social programs eventually mature into proactive participation over time.

Everything starts with defining the voice and the persona of the brand as well as its mission and purpose for engagement. While intention counts, it is our actions and words that define outcomes. In the last mile of engagement, consumers must see beyond the personal brand tied to the representative to see the brand the individual represents. The elements of traditional branding still apply, they’re just humanized now.

When we shift from monitoring to hearing what people are saying and the context of their conversations, we discover that reactive and proactive engagement spans across the entire business. And even in the cases where participation isn’t required, there is still much opportunity to adapt products and processes based on insights gleaned from concentrations of meaningful dialogue.

Many of the social media cases that I review today and even those that I have worked on in the past, reach one audience…an audience of existing and potential customers. So, when we run a creative campaign or a personalized social customer program, we quickly realize that our audience is actually an audience with audiences who also have audiences. And, within each, are subsets of people with distinctive needs and also those who represent real world opportunities.

At any one moment, they are…

Decision Makers

We are on the right path. We just have much to learn. In 2011 and for the next several years, social businesses will transform the organization from within. For those ready to lead tomorrow’s businesses today, we are indeed talking about organizational transformation and change management. Starting with the philosophy, culture, and reverberating throughout systems, processes, workflow, business units and the people at every step of the way, the business of business will evolve…it already is.

Please read and share…

The 2010 Series on the Social Business

- The 10 Stages of Social Media Integration in Business

- The Social Media Style Guide: 8 Steps to Creating a Brand Persona

- The Last Mile: The Socialization of Business

- Social CRM is Just the Beginning: Looking Beyond Customers

- SCRM and SRM: Potay-to, Potah-to When Done Right (Paul Greenberg)

- The Socialization of Business: Your Dirty Little Secrets are No Longer Secrets

- Social Business Takes a Human Touch, No Really

- Following Dell’s Approach To Social Media

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  • Quorus

    As you note, the shift from monitoring to hearing is essential for a business to evolve and most businesses don’t yet understand how engagement spans the entire organization. Dell has done a very interesting job of this just recently with the launch of their social media “command center” (

    At Quorus we see social shopping as one element in this larger conversation taking place–what you have termed “the conversation cloud”. We enable the discussion between consumers on a given site, around the shopping experience. But we extend it to allow experts to be invited into the discussion, on an opt-in basis.

    But our same discussion layer can be located in a number of places–around services, anchored to content, in the non-profit experience. We are just at the front end of this now.

    Thanks for your post–always enjoy seeing/hearing your thoughts.

    Matt Scoble

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  • sabine taylor

    With my previous employer I was invited to participate in many discussions about the direction of the organization Getting invited was always nice because it meant that upper management valued my opinion. But I am not sure if they knew what the long-term effect of engaging me would be. It has been years since I have work there but I am still a promoter of their products as a result they are getting a major “conversation cloud” shout out by me. I think that the secret sauce is the employees because they understand the company and can spread the message within their clouds.

  • Aaron Howard

    Brian, this is one of the simplest (a good thing) and authentic summaries I’ve seen this year. John Bernard and I feel strongly that the way you’ve described “transformation and change management” in 2011 (and beyond) is spot on. Our NOW System of Management is predicated on several key points including the shift from “monitoring to hearing.” Businesses will need to act in the NOW and you’ve set the stage nicely for 2011. Cheers. Aaron

  • Mazakaro

    Very nice article, it is only simple but something has to share about it’s content.

  • Jeffrey Simons

    Clear. Concise. Awesome. Now I’m going to go share it. Thanks, Brian.

  • anthony

    Nicely done Brian this is Social Media taking shape. I can’t wait to see how we will use it in 2011. We are in for an educational ride and is good to know that we have you in the front seat.

    Thank you.

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  • John Bernard

    Brian…agree it is all about the conversation and what a real conversation means. As we discussed in our phone call a few weeks ago I think few corporations understand the power of this INSIDE the organization. In the book I am writing for Wiley, MANAGING IN THE NOW, BUSINESS AS THE SPEED OF NEED, I explore the critical nature of the need for a dynamic and instant social flow to access ideas, information, expertise and passion so our people can act in the now. The conversation is where it all begins and in that conversation a whole world of untapped innovation is just waiting to be released.

    • briansolis

      Hello again John, well said. I also enjoyed our conversation very much…

      Necessity is the mother of reinvention :)

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  • Stephen Bryer

    Once again Brian you have brought more clarity to the SM paradigm. My one suggestion is that you might consider revising the wheel diagram to create a little more separation between the people and the mechanism as it appears that by the nature of the proximity there is a direct connection between the entities being adjacent to one another. Thank for you for the timely article.

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Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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