When I spoke in Holland right after Thanksgiving, a woman in the audience asked me what I think about social business.

I told her I thought it was a buzzword the social media geeks use to get more business. I hurt her feelings. Apparently she is creating a business around the idea.

Because I hurt her feelings and because she presented a good argument for why organizations need consultants to help them figure out how to become a business that uses social media throughout their entire organizations, I’ve been thinking more about it.

You see, I’ve always believed social media doesn’t belong to anyone. To use Jay Baer’s analogy, it’s like typewriting. There used to be pools of women who typed things and now we all type (some of us better than others as I have a friend who pecks away at his keyboard so much I call him “Two Fingers”).

And, when I speak, that’s how I present it, particularly to groups of business leaders.

I still think social business is a buzzword (as well as “native advertising,” which Tom Martin correctly took me to task on), but I understand the need for it.

Social of Social Media

You see, John Jantsch wrote a blog post before the holidays about the very idea. Titled, “The Far Reaching Implications of the Social Business Model,” he explores it more fully.

See what he has to say:

Lately I’ve begun to wonder if social behavior, not social media, is actually much more than we’ve made of it.

We’ve bolted certain socially enabled practices on to our businesses to provide greater reach, customer service and the pretense of connection, but I wonder if we’ve stopped dreadfully short of the true potential of social.

Even those who preach social strategy are generally talking about finding ways to use social tactics to support existing business strategies and models.

Read that last sentence again: “Even those who preach social strategy are generally talking about finding ways to use social tactics to support existing business strategies and models.”

Egads! He’s right! And that’s what drives me crazy about this digital world we live in. We forget the social part of social media. Instead, we use it as another push method to get our products and services out to more people.

Social as a Way to Communicate

But we have to think about social media beyond marketing. It’s not just another add-on for the things you’re already doing. It’s a way to communicate with anyone, anywhere. We are no longer bound by geography. We can do business halfway around the world without leaving our desks, if we’re so inclined.

I have this conversation A LOT with business owners. Typically we work with Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

Baby Boomers tend to think, “I get this is the way the world is going, but I’m going to retire before it really hits my business so I don’t need to worry about it right now.”

And Gen Xers tend to think, “I get this is the way the next generation wants to communicate, but I’m too set and comfortable and I don’t have any time to learn something new, so I’ll just wait and see what happens.”

Of course, that’s not the case for all of them, but it’s prevalent enough it sticks out in my mind.

Social Beyond Marketing

For those of us helping organizations understand the nuances of and constantly-changing social media, we have to present it as more than marketing. For those of you hiring people (either internally or as consultants) to help you understand it, push them to help you incorporate it throughout the organization.

A recent Nielsen study shows 40 percent of us would prefer to reach the companies with which we do business through the web.

That means customer service, sales, HR, product, marketing, communications, and even the executive team should be figuring out how to use social media to talk to customers.

If you want to call that a social business, fine. I prefer saying it’s a business that knows how to talk to and work with its customers in ways that are easy and convenient for them. But I think we can all agree organizations need to get there as quickly as possible.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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