In business, is there such a thing as being “inherently social”?
In short, yes! Businesses are dependent on customers and employees and other organizations, and that interconnectivity is social by definition. Businesses are part of the community, as are their employees in their personal lives, so it’s impossible to divorce the professional from the social.
That doesn’t mean, however, that all businesses understand and make the most of this. From big things like under appreciating employees and not encouraging an appropriate work-life balance or not being responsible members of the community, to little things like not taking advantage of opportunities to interact with customers as individuals more through social media, there are myriad places for most companies to improve their social skills, so to speak.
Just because business is and should be social, doesn’t mean it’s always easy to make the most of that, so here are some tips for making your brand more social.
Be a good neighbor – The same way you would consider the impact on your neighbor before planting a new tree in your front yard, or leaving your car badly parked in the street, it can really be as straight forward as considering the impact of the business’ decisions on the surrounding community. That doesn’t mean always operating from a place of 100% altruism and collectivism, but it does mean thinking through the consequences of choices on other people (and businesses) and taking appropriate steps to mitigate and counter balance possible negative impacts of your business decisions. For instance, if you expand operations and hire more employees, there will be a negative impact on traffic around your facility. Being aware of this doesn’t mean not expanding the business, but it can mean something like helping to set-up carpools for employees or offering transit subsidies to encourage some employees to to drive (though you probably want to avoid the fiasco Google has found themselves in with their buses).
Change your phrasing – Take a look at the company mission statement and any other primary objective documents and examine the phrasing. Places where you see abstract, distant language, think about ways you could express the same idea in more collective, connected terms. The more you express what you want to do together with customers, the more the company’s overall mindset will be focused on the social and community aspects of your mission.
Be a good employer – One of the biggest positive impacts a company can have as a member of their community is in being a good employer. Not just the employer that pays the best wages, or offers the most perks, but the one that is the best holistically for the employee and encourages the most fulfilling work-life balance. This may sound a bit lofty, but it can really be as simple as letting their off-hours and vacations truly be off time, encouraging them to stay home when they (or their children) are sick, and keeping the unscheduled extra hours to a minimum. In some industries and job functions this is easier than others, obviously, but if you do your best as an employer to keep the promises you make about hours and responsibilities, you’re a big part of the way there.
Let your personality shine through on social media – Obviously social media is a big part of this social and community business, and where so many brands miss their chance for genuine interaction with their customers is in being afraid to let a true voice come through. Social media and blogs don’t need to (and really shouldn’t) sound like press releases or statements crafted by a crisis management expert. This is a chance for you to build a human, relatable image for your brand, so don’t miss out on it by sticking with corporate speak and bland buzzwords!
So, is business inherently social? You bet! Business is about interaction and community, and what’s more social than that? We hope these tips help, and if you’ve got a great example of a business that is really part of your community, share with us in the comments!