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Lost in Translation: From Social Media to Social Business

At The Community Roundtable we’ve been talking about social media and online communities for a long time. So long that sometimes we forget how fast business is moving and how many different stages of understanding this still emergent industry is in. I was reminded of this while watching the live stream coming out of SAP last week during Social Media Week. Rachel was speaking there along with Maggie Fox and others about online communities. As that block of presentations began, Mark Yolton (a SVP at SAP) addressed the audience and explained why the sessions were about online communities…as it was “social media week”, not community week. It took me aback for a moment, because to me it is perfectly clear why online communities would be included in this discussion. But others may not have that clarity, depending on how long they’ve been following the space.

Here are our high-level definitions of social media and community, with graphics to help paint the picture.

Social Media – The places we interact, the tools companies use to be social, and the content contained there.

Social Networking – What happens on social media platforms and/or in online communities.  The actions we are taking.  Conversations that often start as broadcasting from one to many and some that evolve into relationships where people meet and interact regularly.  Personally, I think calling this online networking instead of social networking would clear up much of the confusion.

Online Community – A group who have a common goal or purpose – shared language, artifacts, interests – the members of this community come together regularly to talk with each other, help each other with issues, share content with each other.  Those in an online community have a relationship with the company/association running the community and the other members in that community.

Social Business –  When organizations integrate interaction with communities and social networks into workflows across the organization. Employees, vendors, customers are all part of the process and interaction is cross-functional and collaborative.

There are many different opinions of what social business is and should contain and this was represented yesterday by CMSWire’s #Socbizchat on twitter.  This topic has also been covered in a couple of  recent blog posts. One speaks directly to how difficult it is to define social business  for each company and another talks about the confusion around the difference between social and community.

Are our definitions in line with how you think about these different terms? Do you have changes/additions to any of our definitions? Let us know in the comments.

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The Community Roundtable  is committed to advancing the business of community and being a valued resource to community management and social media professionals through our  monthly subscription report,  membership based peer network,  community management training program and customizable advisory services for corporations and individuals.



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