A few years ago there was debate between industry pundits about social media, its definition and whether it should be called something else. And whether or not “social media” is the right terminology, it’s a known fact that today’s customer is using social technologies to communicate with others, including brands.

Today, similar discussions are arising specifically about “social business.” My first involvement in a related discussion was at a Social Media Club panel with good friend Chris Heuer from Deloitte, Peter Kim of Dachis Group and Jen McClure of Thomson Reuters. The point of the discussion was less about what to call “social business” and more about how each of us defined it. It was a great discussion and there were definitely similarities in each of our definitions.

The Social Business Conversation is Evolving

Social business conversations are now starting to evolve and beginning to take a similar path to the social media discussions from a few years ago. A blog post on InformationWeek’s BrainYard community by Jamie Pappas called 'Social Business' The Right Choice Of Words begins to question the terminology itself. Jamie certainly brings up several excellent points about CEOs and business leaders who aren’t sold on “social” or how such terminology could actually tie back to business results.

I am not advocating for or against using social business as a way to describe the evolution of business, how it’s changing internally or the chaos that external social media has caused for the enterprise.

The reality in today’s environment is that technology is changing rapidly. Media consumption is changing. Information sharing is at an all time high, with new content being created and shared every second of every minute of every day. And the expectations of the social customer are changing while they continue to gain influence.

With all these external factors changing at the speed of light, most business remains stagnant, closed and unwilling to change.

The Challenges Specific to Implementing Social Media

Now, rather than trying define and coin a new term, let’s take a look at a few challenges that many companies are dealing with today as it relates specifically to social media. First, the confusion of roles and responsibilities as to who “owns” social media is still not clear. Marketing thinks they own it, PR thinks they own it; and while both groups may use social media in various ways, they probably don’t share knowledge and best practices. In some instances, random employees are running wild on social media posting without disclosure and without any form of training.

Organizational silos are alive and well, which causes conflict in itself. Teams and geographies aren’t communicating. Business leaders may say, “We believe in using social media to connect with customers,” but have yet to put their money where their mouth is. Multiple technology applications are being deployed internally without support and buy-in from IT, and the list goes on.

The Name of This Evolution Doesn’t Matter

It really doesn’t matter what we call this evolution because some companies are being forced to change whether they like or not. And, for what it’s worth, I think the term “social business” actually makes sense. It’s not like I would ever walk into a CEO’s office and say, “Hey, my firm specializes in social business planning and I want to work with you.” I would certainly expect the CEO to give me a puzzled look and maybe even have security escort me out of the building. It’s about communicating, understanding and identifying gaps in the organizations and offering solutions.

I am a firm believer that in order for any company to have effective, external conversations with the social customer, they must first have effective, internal conversations with each other first. And, this mandate has to come from the leadership of the company because it requires a change of behavior, from the CEO to the customer support agent and everyone in between. If a CEO understands and values the nature and influence of the social customer, they will realize that they will have to change the way they do business in order to improve the overall customer experience. If the CEO doesn’t value the social customer or better yet, doesn’t even realize the chaos that is going on internally, perhaps he or she shouldn’t be the CEO.

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