The term social business is in the air today, and there seems to be some general confusion about what the term means. As I keep seeing it used, I think people who are saying “social business” actually mean “responsive business”. I’ll try and break down what I see as the different aspects of each:
This business is savvy in social networks and engagement. It’s got a channel open on every social corner, and has listening for brand mentions and customer concerns and responding quickly down pat. It is strong in brand awareness and customer service on social channels. Lead generation, thought leadership and business growth are happy side effects of a consistent social media, email and content marketing strategy supported by basic analytics and metrics analysis.
The true social business uses social tools, metrics and methods internally and externally to be a better overall business across departments. In addition to using outward facing social media platforms and tools in expected ways: to increase sales and sales leads and bring information from networks into the process, to build brand awareness and establish thought leadership, to market to customers and potential partners, to source new employees and gather information about applicants, for competitive intelligence, for product marketing and research, informal crowdsourcing, data mining, information distribution, affiliate and referral sales and other established practices, the social business has an internally social component. The inward facing social ideal breaks down silos between departments, making internal communication fluid and complete, ensuring that the company operates more efficiently. It relays information faster and more accurately and makes all employees at all levels part of the process of a smoothly run business. It empowers people to make better decisions in the departments by connecting them to the information and people they need to access efficiently. In short, a social business uses social tools and social ideals to create a well oiled machine with agile business practices that help them grow and become competitive as markets shift and change quickly. This is a holistic shift in how business is done that is different than being on social media and responsive in that space.
What do you think? Are there differences I missed? Do you agree that the term social business as it is often used today is on its way to becoming as meaningless as the overused term “innovative” (often used when “iterative” makes more sense)?
I’ve been spending more and more time in Maine in the last year helping folks learn new ways of doing business. Recently I spoke at Social Media FTW in Portland, ME and at Accelerate Maine in Bangor, ME. Social Media FTW had nearly 500 attendees, and Accelerate Maine had nearly 200 – that’s a lot of people who want to know how to be better at business in a technological age.
Here are my slides from both presentations, and a huge thank you to both conferences for having me speak.
Social Media FTW, Portland, ME, September, 2010
Accelerate Maine, Bangor, ME, October 2010