What Makes A Business Social?


A social business could be most simply defined as a business which engages with its customer base socially. It used to be all businesses were social. You made friends in the neighborhood and responded to their interests or you failed. Today we may think it has to mean they use social media, but there's more to it than that. Just having millions of followers, fans and "interactions" on social networks doesn't make you social.

Talking to your customers, listening to what their concerns and ideas are and responding to them is what being a social business is about. You don't actually need social media (gasp) to do that. You could make your business more social by talking to them directly at the point of transaction, calling them on the phone, doing door to door interviews or focus groups. All of these are social activities too. The problem is, they're labor intensive, expensive and not very scalable. This kind of interaction can also severely impact the ability of your business to expand past arm's length.

Social Business and Evangelism
Sure, your customers will still tell other people how cool it was you reached out to them and actually listened to them. Those friends will tell their friends and you will gain some customers and maybe even an evangelist or two. But the exponential growth experienced by companies large and miniscule using social media can't be denied. Social media enables you to reach more people more often and with better reach to their extended networks. It also creates a way to drive genuine organic traffic to your website through the value of social SEO.

The old adage that you have to "touch" someone 7 times before you convert them to a customer still holds true, but now you can do it efficiently and effectively through sharing carefully targeted information with your networks to encourage them to share that information too; thereby reaching extended networks you may never have seen much less been connected with.

Now before you jump on all the social sites spewing out canned marketing messages in the vain hope people will see them and flock to your business let me reiterate. You must talk to your customers. Engage them, inform them, entertain them. They really don't care about your marketing message. At least not if it doesn't solve a problem for them.

A truly social business is constantly listening to social media for opportunities to engage potential and current clients. Start there and you're well on your way to a social business.


Janet Fouts is a social media coach who helps individuals and corporations figure out how to use social media as part of their outreach and marketing program. She's a frequent speaker at conferences, conducts workshops, training sessions and webinars around social media and online marketing and has authored three books on social media, "Social Media Success," "#Socialmedia PR tweet," and "#Socialmedia Nonprofit tweet." TatuDigital is a full service inbound marketing agency, co-founded by Fouts.