Social Business, Social Media Strategy

Comparison of 100 Top Companies on Social Business and Corporate Culture

Are social business and corporate culture inevitably linked?

In a recent podcast, Mitch Joel interviewed Fred Reichheld, author of The Ultimate Question 2.0, and creator of the Net Promoter methodology. Fred made a statement that has stuck with me in the several weeks since I tuned in:

“You can’t be the best place to buy, if you’re not the best place to work.”

As social business moves from the toddler stage to youth stage, it’s becoming accepted wisdom that the best and most social organizations transform from the inside out. Whether it’s Charlene Li’s Open Leadership, The NOW Revolution from Amber Naslund and me, Humanize from Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter, Smart Business, Social Business from Michael Brito, or Olivier Blanchard’s Social Media ROI, there is a chorus postulating that people make your company social, not tools and technology.

Does Being a Good Place to Work Impact Social Business?

Last week’s release of the 2012 FORTUNE list of 100 Best Companies to Work For got me thinking about whether being employee-centric inherently impacts the social business aptitude of the company.

Social Business IndexTo search for a correlation, I turned to the Dachis Group Social Business Index, which ranks companies in near real-time based on the ongoing social media conversations about them from internal and external audiences. For each of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, I matched up their Social Business Index ranking (where applicable).

Social Business Comparison

Observations on Social Business and Employee Centrism

When starting this investigation, I had no idea what I’d find. I recognize that this is not an apples to apples comparison, as many of the companies (especially smaller ones) ranked as Best Companies to Work For are not in the Social Business Index at all. Also, some of the companies that are Best Companies to Work For are in industries (finance, healthcare) where outward facing social participation (as indexed by Dachis Group) is sometimes still in the embryonic stages, with growth often stunted by a diet of regulation and fear. And of course, the methodologies of the two rankings are massively different.

Even with the analytical shortcomings of this approach, however, the findings were surprising to me:

  • Among the 100 Best Companies to Work For, 40 are ranked in the top 900 companies in the Social Business Index
  • 29 of the Best Companies to Work For are ranked in the top 400 companies in the Social Business Index
  • Among the top 100 companies in the Social Business Index, 11 are also Best Companies to Work For in 2012
Of course, we cannot conclude that being good to your employees inexorably results in being deft at social business. This is an exercise in correlation, not causation, and the data isn’t strong enough to support such a claim anyway.

More likely may be the hypothesis – and here I am clearly drawing conclusions to suit my own assumption (shared by many other social business authors and consultants) that the embrace of an open culture makes companies a more desirable place to work, and this openness then seeps into interactions with customers and prospects.  That the cultural qualities that make a company “good” in the eyes of employees also make the company “good” and worthy of chatter in the eyes of external publics via social channels.

This is the “rich get richer” philosophy that I’ve written about before at Convince & Convert. Companies that genuinely care about their employees and customers are typically good at social media, because it’s just one more way for that caring to manifest.

The Social Business Chicken and Egg

Another interesting finding in my comparison is that among the 40 companies appearing on both lists, only five (Starbuck’s, Microsoft, Mattel, Hasbro, and Cisco) were ranked higher on the Social Business Index than on the Best Companies to Work For list.

I wonder then if there is a natural progression at work here. That companies that embrace openness and employee centrism fully articulate and implement those values internally first, before eventually radiating outward to customers and prospects. This stands to reason, as most companies (and certainly the vast majority on both lists) had strong corporate cultures long before social media and social business were coined, much less deemed to be important.

And I question whether it’s even possible to do succeed in reverse order. Is it possible for a company to be particularly and disproportionately good at social media and external-facing social business first, and then shore up their culture and employee focus second?

Can you make your customers happy without having happy employees first?


Facebook Comments


  1. says

    Wow. Awesome food for thought. Thanks for the Humanize reference! My instinct is to say no, that in fact those companies that struggle with social media are precisely the ones who are afraid that letting their employees represent them online will pull back the curtain on the fact they they are crappy places to work. But I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule… definitely have to think about this one some more. But how great would it be to be able to show more and more data about the causation? Not possible yet, I assume, but this seems to point the way.

    • says

      @maddiegrant Thanks Maddie. I loved Humanize. Great book. I think you’re probably right that closed companies don’t fare as well with employee satisfaction, but I’d love more data too.

  2. says

    Seems to me that a given company’s social media employee-driven digital-footprint, is always going to be a direct reflection of the employees true heart and soul relative to that company. If your employees are not reflecting your brand very well, perhaps it’s time to focus more attention on the realities of your corporate culture, than the posts that you don’t like.

    Chicken or the egg?

    It’s always going to be corporate culture first in my book.

    Michael Besson

    • says

      @MichaelBesson I think I agree that it’s culture first, but even when employees have that heart and soul, they don’t always have the freedom to express it socially and publicly.

      • mdyoder says

        @JayBaer @MichaelBesson But, don’t you think that a company that would be considered a great place to work (positive corporate culture) then it would be the type of culture to allow employees the freedom to express it socially and publicly? They seem to go hand in hand.

  3. ITSinsider says

    Interesting hypothesis Jay. For your readers, if your company is not in the Index, simply sign up. We’d love to start collecting your data. The Social Business Index is a free tool to be leveraged for just this sort of purpose.

    From our work in the Council, I will tell you that the more progressive (employee-centric, democratic, distributed leadership) organizations embrace social much more readily. The culture shift is the most difficult of all the challenges our members face. Where an organization sits on the spectrum favoring transparency, trust, sharing, and authenticity is a good indicator of social business success.

    • Rjohn37Robert says

      @jaybaer @jeffdachis @hebchop It would be interesting to slice and dice the different verticals, then apply some low level metrics.

  4. jimkreller says

    Great idea to lay these side by side, Jay. Regarding the correlation between the two indices: It feels to me like companies who are social internally create a culture of alignment and clarity in realtime as a result of their social behavior. This is largely what translates into “great place to work” – employees are crystal clear about the mission, even as the mission shifts. This clarity allows them to work confidently and swiftly – they don’t get “frozen”. And it then follows that they are crisp and on-point with their customers and partners.

    • says

      @jimkreller Thanks Jim. Excellent comment, and terrific to see you here. I think you’re right. I don’t think the data shows it fully, but I’d love to dig deeper on this subject.

  5. says

    Goal for 2012: Encourage social business

    Goal for 2013: Social business becomes the norm

    Goal for 2014: Put an end to the word “social” in business

    The word “social” ultimately shouldn’t even be required to include in anything. When ‘social’ becomes an organic way of doing business across the organization and externally, it ultimately shouldn’t have to be necessary to have as a qualifying adjective for how we do business. The reason we do find the need include it today is because we have lost our way with how to be social. (By “we,” I mean too many organizations who put profits over people, or treat the two as mutually exclusive.)

  6. stephenwrks says

    Great work Jay. It really got me thinking and inspired me to do some of my own detective work using your methodology (hope you don’t mind) but focusing on the correlations between the most social businesses and the most innovative – post here if interested:

  7. Irate1 says

    Excuse me but do you even know what a Social Business is? 95% of the businesses mentioned on this site and the DachisGroup site are not social businesses at all. If you want to see what a true Social Business is and what it means look at Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. As a matter of fact Social Business was started by Grameens founder Muhammad Yunus. This article is full of companies faking social accountability and mot of them are the worst offenders of working conditions in developing countries.

  8. onthebrinks says

    I would like to add another, I feel important element, to corporate culture and that is that employees get great satisfaction delivering on a solid value proposition offered by the company they work for. This is a major element to corporate culture in my opinion. If people have a good work environment and at the same time are doing something good for their customers it is the best of both worlds. Management must acknowledge these elements in order to create a good work environment. If every day you go to work selling or delivering something of little or no value that is overpriced you will still have a poor culture even if you do team building activities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *