What is a Social Business

Here we go again. There’s a new buzzword. Social business is the new buzzword.

Peter Kim says that a social business harnesses the fundamental tendencies of human behavior through emerging technologies to improve tactical and strategic outcomes. This is an interesting definition. But it sounds more like something that a consultant might say.

IBM defines social business (for obvious reasons) as an agile, transparent, and engaged organization.

I don’t believe the definition is all that complex. What does being a social business mean? It is not enough to have a team of individuals monitoring LinkedIn, Twitter, and, if you’re on the “leading edge,” Google+ and Pinterest. These are communication channels and tools.

What makes a business a social business

It’s not possible to define a social business by a small team of crisis prevention and rapid response specialists. The social strategist is a customer interaction strategist and not the leader of an emergency response team trying to prevent a Comcast crisis or a United breaking guitars viral video incident. There is no formula for making content viral.

The meaning of running a social enterprise is much more profound. I say “deeper” because to become a social business, a culture shift is required that affects the entire industry.

What am I saying? Customer Service is trying (and struggling) to reduce the call volume. Does this make sense? Why would a company offer better customer service through its social media team via Twitter rather than its 1-800 phone number? Social media is not a strategy. Instead, companies should create customer service and interaction strategies that include both traditional and social channels.

Is your company genuinely interested in listening and empowering its employees to engage with customers? Here is a quick Social Business Test to help you discover the answer.

Are You a Social Business

Checklist to determine if you are a social enterprise:

If you keep callers waiting for more than 30 minutes, your business is not social. You’re telling your customers that you don’t care to speak to them if you leave callers on hold for 30 minutes. Rackspace is where I work, and customers can reach a representative in six seconds on average.

If you are sending emails to your customers from a “Do Not Reply” account, then this is not a social enterprise. Imagine that you are telling customers to “please don’t try to speak to us.” Your email will not even reach us.

If you do not list your contact details on your website and you do not encourage your customers to reach out to you, you are not a “social business.” As a customer, how many times did you navigate through pages in order to find an email address or 1-800 number to contact? How many buttons must a customer push to reach a live person on your phone system?

If you do not have a formal process for customer feedback, your business is not social. This allows the team designing products and services to understand the needs of customers better. A social enterprise must have a system in place that will enable customers to provide feedback easily. Frontline employees should also be able to share that feedback.

If everyone in your marketing department does not spend time every week with customers, you are not a “social business.” In 2004, when I was in charge of social strategy at a Fortune 500 firm, each employee was required to interact with the customer community for four hours. When was the last instance that your team members interacted with customers (and listened to them)?

If you do not empower your frontline staff to assist customers and have honest conversations with them, then you are not a “social business.”

If you talk to your customers in another language, then it is not a social enterprise. You cannot connect with your customers if they are speaking in corporate-speak or marketing-speak. (I am trying to avoid this. It’s hard.). You should talk to them as if they were people.

If your social media team is primarily focused on self-serving communications and discount offers via Facebook and Twitter, you don’t run a social enterprise.

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