Meanings of "Social Business" and Implications for Branding

Is the term “social business” about doing good with social media or about how social technologies work in the business context and how does that affect my branding?

Not long ago, in the process of seeking greater focus in my business and related branding, I formed the view that the term “social business mentor” was a better designation than the rather longer term I had been using, “social media strategist and business coach”.

SocialBusinessOne thought leadership groupI was influenced in that by having been invited to be part of thought leadership group, SocialBusinessOne, which describes the term “social business” as “how businesses are adopting social computing to engage with customers, improve employee productivity and create a competitive advantage”.

(Update: Social Business One seems to have folded. The web site is vacant.)

That represented for me a bigger picture than the term “social media”. And it appealed to me.

So I started some re-branding. I would now use the title “Social Business Mentor”.

Nothing too dramatic in the implementation. Some change of image on this site and on several social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

But now I’m wondering whether that was a smart move or a dumb one.

Or at least too soon?

Des Walsh's old business card with the blogging evangelist description

I like being a bit of a trailblazer and an evangelist for new things. For quite a while back there I even called myself a “blogging evangelist” and had a business card with that on it: I dropped the nomenclature and retired the cards about when I started to realise that everyone and their aunts and uncles had blogs (not quite, but you know what I mean).

But one thing I’ve learned is that, for me at least, being a trailblazer is not always good for cashflow.

So what’s the challenge with the term “social business mentor”?

Not the “mentor” bit – a lot of the coaching I do could sensibly be described as mentoring and that actually sits well with me.

The challenge arises with the different meanings that might be put on the “social business” part. Or, perhaps worse, no meaning – a polite “Uh huh” with the unspoken “I have no idea what you are talking about but I’ll be polite and pretend I do”.

Meanings of “social business”

I’ve identified at least two quite distinct key meanings, or areas of meaning, for the term “social business”, with completely different frames of reference.

For example, the definition of “social business” on Wikipedia is:

A social business is a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective. The profits are used to expand the company’s reach and improve the product/service.

And on the site “Social Business Australia” there is a similar focus on social or “not for profit” activities:

Social businesses trade or undertake activities for social purpose and apply profit or surpluses to social benefit.

For a different perspective, one more aligned with for-profit business, or at least not confined to the not-for-profit arena, there is the example of the explanation of the focus of the Social Business conference held in Sydney recently, which describes “social business” in terms of an area of activity, rather than as a type of business entity.

We intend to consider and address the impact of social tools on the way we organise, structure and manage knowledge and people in businesses, both internally and externally.

So what’s most appropriate for my branding at this time? Social media or social business?

My hesitation on this is partly because, while the term “social business” in the for-profit arena may have sufficient resonance in the USA, I do wonder whether using it in Australia and the larger Asia region is less appropriate than using “social media”  – with the possibility of re-framing the discussion more broadly at a later date or as discussions with particular companies unfold.

Comments and suggestions, as always, but particularly on this one, will be very welcome.

Des Walsh

Business coach and digital entrepreneur. With coach training from and its Graduate School of Coaching, and a founding member of the International Association of Coaching, Des has been coaching business owners and entrepreneurs for the past 20 years. Over the same period he has also been actively engaged in promoting the business opportunities of the digital economy. He is a certified Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) coach, and a certified specialist in social media strategy and affiliate marketing.

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  1. Hello Des
    This is a very interesting topic, and if you don’t mind the opinion of somebody who is very new to this, I believe that “social business” still has the connotation of “social work” which could be misleading.
    Social media, however, being a more recent “term” relates directly to the Web and Facebook, Twitter…

    On the other hand, since potential clients are people who are going to read or listen to you on these social media, we can assume that they are familiar with ” social business”.

    Personally I can see a paradox in seeing social and business put together, and my preference would go to “Social media”.

    i would be curious to see what other people think.

    For what it’s worth.


    1. Louise

      Not only don’t mind, very pleased to have your opinion. I suspect you are spot on with your comments. And I too am curious to see what others think.

  2. Des
    Great post – “social business” is definitely open for debate: for me, it’s about the new way of doing business using social technologies (like Twitter) and therefore aligned with that third definition you gave.

    This discussion reminds me of my friend Robin Dickinson’s (@Robin_Dickinson) post which I would encourage you to check out here:

    Thanks for sharing this

    Tony Hollingsworth

  3. Hey Des

    I hate to be seen as always thinking in the box but, at the moment, ‘social media’ gets my vote.
    ‘Social business’ sounds a little too much like having to work the room at a corporate cocktail party.

    As Don said to Pete at Roger’s Kentucky Derby party (a “Mad Men” reference), “Don’t hand out your card.” regarding clients in attendance that could be spoken to but not specifically sold to.


    1. Thanks Kris. Yes, I think that insofar as some tag might be useful, it’s ‘social media’ now and probably for a while to come.

      Interesting that Seth Godin in his book Linchpin which I mentioned to you, bags “outside the box” thinking.

      “Artists don’t think outside the box, because outside the bx there’s a vacuum. Outside of the box there are no rules, there is no reality. You have nothing to interact with, nothing to work against….You can’t ship if you’re far outside the box.” (p 102)

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