Today I’m thinking about a word that challenges some people and excites others: social. It’s something that comes up especially in the holiday season, but it’s also something we hear about a lot in marketing and even just life these days. What does it mean to be a social business? What does it mean to use social media? Why is social important? These are just a few of the things we’re going to discuss today.
Social to most people means enjoying gatherings with friends and family, going to events, or being with other people. Some people add in that you are outgoing or comfortable with strangers or able to strike up a conversation with anyone. Those aren’t typically things I add in, but they are part of being social as a larger definition. The social we’re talking about today is interacting with others, whether they’re strangers, new acquaintances, friends, family, employees, partners, suppliers, existing customers or prospective customers.
When people hear the word “social” these days they tend to think of social media like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. One of the questions I get asked way too often given how focused we are on social media is “what does it mean to be social?” I take being social back to one of the classic lines “do unto others as you would have them do to you.” In other words, if you want people to interact with you, you have to interact with them; comment on their posts with a relevant (non-promotional) comment, like their posts, share them, and recommend them to others.
What does it mean to be a social business? One definition (Wikipedia) says: A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being. I believe that social businesses are those who interact with their customers, employees, suppliers, local community and world in a considerate, open, conversational way that creates opportunities to learn together and support each other. A social business can’t be just about sales and the bottom line, they consider more factors than just those two into how they do what they do and what they consider to be success.
The most important question you may have today is why. Why do we even care about being social? Why do we try to be social? Why has ‘social’ media taken off with such success and totally transformed our world? I think there’s a really simple answer: because deep down even if we won’t admit it we like to be around others and don’t like to be alone. We’re not created to be alone, we’re not at our best when we’re doing everything all by ourselves, rather we’re created to support each other, to ask questions of each other, to learn together, to cry together, to challenge each other to be better, to make each other’s lives easier or better, and to find joy and freedom because there are others around the world doing what they do best to help everything move forward.
This week and upcoming season are great opportunities for you to be more social in your business. Where will you start?