Beyond social: the crowd-based enterprise

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. The value of social
  3. Communities, crowds and social networks
  4. The characteristics of a crowd
  5. Appendix A: redefining Metcalfe’s law
  6. About David Coleman

1. Summary

As a business leader you are probably just starting to contend with social networks in your business and often find them to be of questionable value. The social enterprise is being touted as the next big thing: the new way to do business, a social way to do business.

But the next big thing in collaboration is crowds, not social. Social is only a new method of connecting and discovering information; social does not enable and guide action. Business is about delivering results, and for that you need a crowd. I define a “crowd” as a network that drives an outcome, task or goal that has business value. This piece aims to demonstrate how crowds will add value to your business and shows some examples of what work in the future might look like using this largely untapped resource.

We still struggle with silos of collaboration in most enterprises today. By adding social tools we have accelerated communication but not necessarily increased the overall level of collaboration and action in the enterprise. One of the reasons for this is that both social networks and online communities are focused on connection and communication, but there is no expected result or outcome, as there is with a crowd. For example, in 2007 Facebook opened up the language content behind its software platform and split it into 28,000 pieces. It then put out an open call for people to translate them and “make Facebook pages available to everyone, everywhere, in all languages.” The contributors interacted and exchanged knowledge through, and as a result 300,000 “Facebookers” translated the website into over 70 languages. Google has used the same technique to get people to label images, and through iReport, CNN has over 500,000 people who help with information that can be reported as news.

Effective collaboration is an age-old issue and one that has plagued businesses since humans were using stone tablets. We agree that “social” is an improvement in connectivity and interaction. But rather than an improvement to business itself, it is a platform for what I call crowd-based business (CBB). CBB is the use of crowds to do work for specific businesses, as outlined in the examples above.

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