Social Media = Social Business? Not really

Whether it’s in a client meeting, sales pitch, or a conference, Social Media and Social Business are often used as interchangeable terms – but as concepts, they’re actually quite different. Seeing the difference can help apply each concept effectively to design a solution and/or uncover opportunities for your organization.

Social Media – defined specifically, these are public-facing mediums through which end-users can self-express, connect with others, and autonomously (i.e. don’t need the help or support of an institution like a news organization or a web developer) publish and share content. More generally Social Media (in business) is commonly associated with activities in Marketing, Customer Services, and Public Relations. And is a tool to be used as part of an overall strategy.

Social Business is not a tool or medium – you don’t “use Social Business”; it’s a method or mindset that you can apply to business activities.  At it’s core is a new way to facilitate and support the exchange of information.  If you can isolate the business problems that you want to tackle and ask “how can we do a better job here of facilitating the exchange (sharing, gathering, organizing, consuming, analyzing, etc)  of information with stakeholders (employees, partners, vendors, customers)?”, then you’re well on your way to going social.  Try to think less about “what is our social strategy” (no one has an e-mail or fax strategy) and more about some tangible changes you can make that would open-up the flow of information.

Some comparison points as well:

  • Social Media (largely due to its consumer and public nature) has been reserved for almost exclusively for outward facing activities, like Marketing and Customer Service.  But a “social approach” to business can impact and be applied to almost any piece of or department of an organization and many of its processes.
  • Initiatives and projects that introduce Social Business concepts tend to be long-term and have an eye towards change management and reinventing or refreshing processes and the way things are done within the company; while efforts involving Social Media tools can often be finite, campaign-based, highly reliant on creative skills, and smaller in scope.
  • A Social Business mindset can help tackle challenges and drive improvements in areas like operating efficiencies, facilitating communication, and better management of corporate intelligence (e.g. documents, IP). Social Media tends to be a tool used to support marketing initiatives such as  growing audience reach, driving brand awareness, and managing reputation.