What Does it Mean to Be a ‘Social’ Business?

A social business is more than social media. Yet, it’s a term that’s often confused with social media strategy.

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In Altimeter’s recent report, the 6 Stages of Social Business Transformation, we discovered the most common mistakes and successes companies experienced when investing in social media strategies.

What was most surprising, however not really, was the disconnect between social media strategy and overall business objectives. In our research we found:

  • Only 34% of businesses feel that their social strategy is connected to business outcomes.
  • Just 28% of companies studied felt that they have a holistic approach to social media, where lines of business and business functions work together under a common vision.
  • Only half of companies surveyed said that their top executives were “informed, engaged and aligned with their companies’ social strategy.”


What does it mean to be a social business?

A social business is more than social media. Yet, it’s a term that’s often confused with social media strategy. There’s an important difference between a social business and a social media strategy.

Each represent distinct qualities for which “social” is simply a qualifier. In the context of “media”, social is an adjective that describes the nature of channels, networks, or platforms that facilitate conversations online. When placed ahead of business, social articulates a philosophy or approach.

In this case, “social business” is a philosophy, a way of business in which social technologies supported by new approaches facilitate a more open, engaged, and collaborative foundation for how we work.


Isn’t ‘social’ just, a necessary nuisance?

The fact that social media and social business still cause debate, or even confusion after all these years, is understandable. Many business owners see social media as a novelty or a distraction for young adults and kids. They haven’t realized the impact of social networks because they either:

  • Don’t have time
  • Can’t see the value
  • Find it difficult to keep up with all of the networks
  • Or a combination of all of the above

Understandably, the priority and focus is driving business objectives, creating opportunities, and solving problems. Many founders and CEO’s don’t make decisions based on technology or trends, yet when their teams talk about social they tend to emphasize social media rather than social business goals.


The Goal of a Social ‘Business’ Strategy

A social business strategy starts with a vision for how social media will improve customer and employee experiences and relationships. It aligns social media initiatives with business goals and opportunities. Technology thus becomes an enabler for a bigger mission and purpose.

A social media strategy outlines how a business will employ social networks to engage customers or employees. When social is viewed through the lens of customer expectations, preferences, opportunities and challenges you can’t help but to at least consider further research and pilot programs that lead to bigger initiatives.

In the end, you will learn that a true social business strategy employs social media as one of the primary channels, not the only channel, to deliver a consistent, connected, and additive experience online, through mobile and in the real world by modernizing and improving the complete customer and employee lifecycle.


What criteria should we use to prioritize social initiatives?

Social media strategies are often sparked by technology or trends. I’ve heard strategists focus on Pinterest because of its popularity, not necessarily because there was a clear correlation between Pinterest users, behavior, and business opportunities. This is also true for most popular or emergent platforms.

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