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Social Business, Social Brand

|Dec 6|magazine17 min read

Click here to read this story on our interactive reader in the December issue of Business Review USA!

Written by Michael Brito

There seems to be some confusion in the market place about the difference between a social brand and a social business. First, let’s explore the definitions.

A social brand is any company, product, individual, politician that uses social technologies in order to communicate with the social customer, their partners and constituencies or the general public.

A social business is any company that has integrated social media within every job function internally. A social business is built upon three pillars – people, process and technology. All three need to work independent of each other, yet need to be completely integrated into the DNA of the organizational culture. It requires employees to actually communicate — processes and governance models that help shape employee behavior online — and technology to facilitate collaboration across the organization.

Here is an infographic created by my colleague David Armano that illustrates the differences visually:

dec marketing graphic.PNG

The graphic illustrates some really significant points. First, it’s clear that social business planning is internal and a social brand is external. But more importantly, there needs to be consistent alignment between both internal and external programs/initiatives in order to see true business results for the organization. Now, I have always been a firm believer that an organization cannot and will not have meaningful conversations with the social customer unless they can have meaningful conversations internally first.

Here is my logic and one example that illustrate my point.

Chris is irritated because he dialed in to a customer support department and was on hold for 30 minutes. No one ever answered his call. He goes to the brand’s Facebook page and leaves a comment expressing his anger. No response. He then tweets at the brand’s Twitter profile. No response. So he writes a blog post criticizing the heck out of the brand and shares it all over the social web. Still no response.

In most organizations, a corporate Twitter handle is owned and managed by someone in PR; and due to organizational silos that still plague business today; most likely they aren’t talking with their colleagues in customer support.

Assume the PR person did send an email to customer support and let’s say that they took care of Chris’ issue and he is happy now. And then the same thing happens with Mary, John, Steve and several other customers; and the support team realizes that they need to shift internally in order to address all these online inquiries. Good progress for sure. After all, happy customers are a good thing.

But a true social business will go above and beyond addressing isolated customer support issues. They will take that feedback (because they are communicating and working together internally) and fix the root cause of the problem. One example is Comcast. They have excellent customer support on Twitter and are solving customer issues day in and day out. But a quick search of Comcast in Twitter still surfaces the same issues – technicians not making it to their appointments within the guaranteed window. In this case, it’s not a support problem; rather a process problem that needs to be fixed.

Of course, I am over-simplifying the issue because situations like these take time, a commitment to change, process creation and the establishment of governance models.

Here is why a social brand and a social business are completely different:

  • A social brand is focused on external communications. A social business focuses on internal communications.
  • A social brand is all about engagement with the social customer. A social business is all about engagement with employees.
  • A social brand is owned by marketing. A social business should be owned by the entire organization.
  • A social brand is measured by clicks, impressions, reach, likes, comments, RTs, etc. A social business is measured by organizational change.
  • With a social brand, budgets are usually allocated towards agencies, community management, Facebook applications, blog development, etc. Most investments into social business initiatives revolve around internal communities, social technologies, and training.

And here is the one reason why they are exactly the same:

  • They serve the same purpose and underlying goal – value creation for the social customer.

The social brand provides value to the social customer simply through two way conversations. Many customers don’t need incentives; they just want to know that the brand is listening. Also, marketing programs like contests, give-aways and product discounts are a huge driver in value creation. Lastly, providing relevant content to customers delivers long term business value.

The social business creates value to the social customer and also to its external counterpart, the social brand. A fully collaborative social business will enable a brand to scale through governance, process creation and technology enablement. In other words, a social brand and a social business need to be in complete alignment to see true business results and also to close the loop of the value creation model as illustrated in the above graphic by Armano.

If the processes and relationships are working effectively internally, the social business will undoubtedly provide value in the form of customer satisfaction to the social customer through product (or process) innovation that happens as a direct result of the social brand listening and engaging directly with the social customer.

A tech veteran, Michael Brito is Senior Vice President of Social Business Planning at Edelman Digital, the interactive arm of the world's largest independently owned public relations firm. He is a much sought after speaker, advisor and community activist on issues ranging from social business, fund raising, digital marketing, community engagement, customer advocacy and integrated brand marketing communications.  Brito received a Bachelor of Arts in Business from Saint Mary’s College and a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from Golden Gate University. He proudly served eight years in the United States Marine Corps.   

Brito’s new book, Smart Business, Social Business, is available for purchase at most fine book stores as well as http://thesocialbusinessbook.com and Amazon.com.  You can also contact Brito through http://thesocialbusinessbook.com.