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While just about every business executive is aware of the power of social networking these days most of them don’t realize how social networking principles are being used to transform not just the way people communicate with each other, but also the way every business process is conducted.

Often referred to as "Social Business," the rise of this phenomenon has far reaching implications for the channel in terms of the number of opportunities it creates.

Going well beyond deploying a social networking system to replace asynchronous email systems with real-time communications, “Social Business” spans a complete range of technologies, including everything from unified communications to productivity applications.

For example, Tibco has created a tibbr framework that allows organizations to share information about a business process or an event in much the same way people share information about themselves on the wall of their Facebook page. The basic idea might be as simple as an airline gate that can automatically alert the rest of the organization about the arrival of a plane, to the complete automation of a business process that requires each step to be begun and completed with a specific order.

"Social Business" is also transforming customer service operations in ways that not only share knowledge across the organization more efficiently, but also allow customers to service their own needs. That process touches everything from customer service and customer relationship management (CRM) applications to the supply chain and back again.

The trouble is that when it comes to anything social most business executives have a limited imagination. They tend to think about building a social business in terms of having a corporate presence sending canned marketing messages on Facebook or Twitter. What they don’t realize is that social networking principles are being used to make organizations not only more competitive, but also a whole lot more profitable.

The opportunity for solution providers is to not only sell the technologies that make all this happen, but also provide the business consulting advice that exposes executive to the art of what is now possible. For years solution providers have been looking for ways to expands into higher margin business consulting practices. But there are only few moments in time when a business is actually looking for help transforming their most fundamental operations. Social networking creates an excuse to have that conversation, but the end goal should be the creation of a truly “Social Business.”

That may not necessarily mean developing that business consulting capability in house. There are plenty of business consulting firms that solution providers can partner with. But it does mean having an appreciation for the business value of the technology.

Of course, that means solution providers will need to practice what they preach, which means transforming their own business operations. Experience is always the best teacher, and it’s hard to speak to a customer with authority unless you can point to some examples of how your organization leveraged a variety of technologies to transform operations for the better. So the first order of business for many solution providers is to start installing social networking tools inside their own companies if for no other better reason than just to see what might actually start to happen.