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Social Business and Giraffe Bread

Posted in Best Practices, Social Media

As I was reading an article on Sainsbury’s Tiger Bread (turned Giraffe Bread), I started to wonder what it truly means to be a social business. Many businesses grapple with this concept. Some believe simply setting up and maintaining social media accounts is enough, but it’s much more than that. Creating a social business starts with your employees and your company culture. Watch this Coffman Organization video on company culture to get a better feel for what I mean.

Take a step back for a second. Realize that social businesses are part of the social revolution. Granted, social networks like Myspace, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter helped spawn the movement, but those networks are just tools. The movement is centered around widespread human-to-human interaction. Humans are connecting with each other all over the world more than ever before, and they are building relationships with the people who matter most to them.

Wikipedia says, “[Social] always refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.” The social revolution is a voluntary movement to reinforce the positive interaction of humans with other humans and to their collective co-existence.

IBM’s Sandy Carter phrases it this way, “A Social Business is a business that embeds ‘social’ in all of its processes, connecting people to people, people to information, and data to insight.” I agree. I also believe a social business creates two-way dialogue with those who matter most using social tools, creating transparency and “sharing expertise beyond [a businesses'] four walls.”

How do you create a social business? Social starts with human-to-human interaction. Your employees are what make you a social business. Their culture and your company culture are what shape and define that interaction. Create a positive company culture and empower your employees to embrace and act on the values of your company culture.

When Morningstar Communication hosted “Sharing a Century of Knowledge,” all six century-old businesses agreed that the secret to their success is company culture. CEO of Saint Luke’s Hospital Julie Quirin said, “We believe culture eats strategy for lunch.”  Senior V.P. of Public Affairs & Communications at Hallmark Steve Doyal said, “In any company, it’s about the people and the passion that they bring to their work.” In a Fast Company article, Shawn Parr wrote about the important role company culture plays in a business’s success.

A social business has employees that are in line with the company culture and who act on its behalf, creating real human-to-human interaction between the company and those who matter most. Chris King, of Sainsbury’s customer service team, and his interaction with three-and-a-half-year-old Lily Robinson is a great example of what it means to be a social business. It’s not strategy. It’s not marketing. It’s not simply using social tools. It’s having an amazing company culture and employees that build relationships. The basis of social business is positive human interaction. It’s not about a product – it’s about connecting with people.

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Posted on by Matthew Barnett