Become a Social Business, Not Just a Social Brand

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Many businesses utilize social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to communicate their brand message. This marketing method has worked so well that a lot of businesses have even dropped some of their traditional marketing practices to focus more on their social efforts. But, does this make a business social?

How would you define a social business? Please share your opinion.

According to Michael Brito, the Senior Vice President of Social Business at Edelman Digital, a business that uses social media to communicate with their customers has a social brand but is not necessarily a social business. In his recently released book Smart Business, Social Business: A Playbook for Social Media in Your Organization, he explains that a social business has a strong social infrastructure.

"It's the difference between the internal communications versus the external communications," he said. "An organization cannot have effective and meaningful conversations with customers unless they are having effective and meaningful conversations with each other."

Brito went to say that a social business involves more than a business just "saying" they believe in social. The business has to actually demonstrate social behavior and create a social culture within the business. Brito told us that it should start with the leaders of the company. For instance, if the executive team practices social behavior, then it will extend naturally to the other departments.

Another way a business can truly become a social business is by knowing which departments to delegate social actions to. More often than not, social is handed off to the PR or marketing departments. However, Brito believes that it should be everyone's job that wants it. He did point out that a business should have a specific governing team that creates policies and makes sure that everyone doing social is communicating with one another.

Also in regards to policies, Brito told us that a business should have a policy in place before the business begins branding with social media. These policies help businesses convey what employees can and can't do on social sites.

"The policy is going to help guide the behaviors of the organization," he said. "It has to be built around trust."

Incidentally, Deb Schultz, a partner with the Altimeter Group, spoke with us last year at the BlogWorld Expo and offered some advice for creating a social media policy. She said that businesses have to remember to keep the policy simple and understand that it would be changing over time.

Once a business has incorporated a social infrastructure and a social media policy, this is when it should actually begin social branding. Although it's easy to create a Facebook page or Twitter account, marketing with social media is not necessarily easy. The biggest challenge for many businesses is simply the amount of time it takes to do it effectively.

Interestingly, Brito told us that if a business cannot add any value to the conversation, it should not waste its time doing it.

"If you can add value to the conversation in a way that's going to add value to either your customers, or analysts, or journalists, or people who are interested in your products, then that's where you have the opportunity to create some really compelling content that's not just pushing your brand or pushing your products," he said.

On a side note, he also pointed out that businesses should not forget about Google and the power of search. He advises brands to create content that will help them own real estate on the search engine.

So, do you have a social business or a social brand?

WebProNews is partnering with BlogWorld and New Media Expo, the world's first and largest new media conference, in an effort to broadcast how new media can grow your business, brand, and audience. BlogWorld takes place November 3-5 in Los Angeles and includes speakers such as Michael Brito. Stay tuned to WebProNews for much more exclusive coverage.