I'm on Facebook, therefore I'm social?

October 12th, 2012

Being on social media vs. being a social business.

Being active in social media can be a good thing for your business, but it does not equate to a business being social. Honestly, it’s not even a prerequisite. In fact, there is currently a debate about what constitutes a “social” business, because each one looks different. For the purpose of this article, I offer a few definitions.

Social media are online and mobile platforms that allow large-scale conversations. Facebook and Twitter are popular social media platforms today.

A social enterprise, not to be confused with a social business, is a business focused on social good. Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, a chef training program for disadvantaged young adults, is a clear example (www.fifteen.net).

A social business, however, is about engaging all constituents to fuel and implement corporate and product change and success. Google and Lowe’s currently implement successful social business frameworks.

Companies implementing a social business framework feel that change comes from the people and processes they are part of. This means ALL people (employees, leadership, owners, partners, suppliers, customers, etc.) are vital pieces of how businesses grow and achieve success. When all voices are valued, systems and technology are in place to help foster a collaborative environment and culture that leads to a more responsive, adaptable and effective company. Real-time conversation, feedback, decision-making and change are helping some companies excel. At the same time, being a social business means starting internally and does not necessarily translate to external efforts – at least not initially.

Information and idea sharing has become critical for current and future success – businesses are staying on top of innovation and customers now expect to be heard. But there are various levels of social business that can be implemented, and no single correct way or template to follow. However, the first step is to understand its importance.

There are five compelling reasons companies should consider becoming social.

  1. Customers now expect seamless communication with companies and brands. They value personal relationships and immediate-response channels.
  2. Technology has evolved to make social endeavors possible and affordable.
  3. Successful companies today have social values in the core of their organization.
  4. Social approaches can offer large workplace efficiencies when feedback and decision-making processes are streamlined.
  5. The incoming and subsequent workforces are social and expect the workplace to be collaborative and empowering.


Becoming social is not necessarily an easy goal and can take time to achieve. Every social business looks different, but they all start internally. How to get there involves:

  1. Having a company vision that connects social goals with overall goals.
  2. Implementing a corporate mindset of collaboration and subsequent change.
  3. Designing a faster information flow and distributed decision-making process. Making sure the right people are in place to implement.
  4. Evaluating any current social strategies and integrating them into the process or procedure is valuable.
  5. Committing infrastructure and tools to support fluid communication.
  6. Evaluating current technology and ensuring integration and ease of use before augmenting with additional tools.
  7. Ensuring all participants are trained and prepared for a social environment.

Ultimately, it’s not all about conversation and information. A social environment requires some filtering. Guidelines become critical for all involved, helping the flow of information and response process. Without filtering and guidelines, people can actually feel overwhelmed with information and no longer participate, thus undermining the intent of a social business.

Is a social business right for you? It depends on business goals. We know successful companies are social. At the same time, social business does not start with the customer. The business itself, the internal workings, culture and communications must be social before including customers in the process through opportunities such as Facebook.

Thank you to SideraWorks, IBM, and the Social Business Forum for sharing their knowledge to inform our thinking.

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