While the stragglers sit still trying to figure it out, the smart brands have evolved into social brands. However, while the social brands sit patting themselves on the back for their innovation, the really smart brands are busy building engaged communities from inside out. These wise businesses are starting to understand that they need to operationalize their social media functions internally. Realizing that if they want to become social businesses, these brands have decided they need to start tearing down silos and engaging employees.

The very recent advent of social business has provided companies with a transformational way of getting closer to both employees and customers. Now, the focus is all on employees and culture. Simply put, before a brand can effectively communicate externally it must first communicate internally.

We are all on a social journey. Brands. Employees. Customers. Successful brands need to find that social connective tissue, which begins with better employee communication. As a concept at least, the formula is quite simple. If they hope to succeed in humanizing their brands, companies must first humanize their business processes.

For many brands, this transformation evolution marks a major shift in mindset. This move requires transparency, authenticity and trust. “But as trust has eroded away from corporations and government institutions, we are seeing the ushering in of a new era: the employee-brand,” according to Michael Brenner in his blog “Why Now Is The Time to Build Your Personal Brand.”

If brands embrace the concept of trusting their employees via education and communication, they will be well along the path toward transforming from a social brand to a social business.

Leading edge companies like AT&T understand what it means to become a social business. Two employees, Trish Nettleship (@trishnet) and Bill Strawderman (@marketingbard), spearheaded the AT&T Networking Exchange Blog in order to bring the digital voice of their employee ambassadors to the forefront, and to help foster a social digital trust in AT&T. Recently, AT&T expanded its program to include external bloggers such as Brian Solis (@briansolis), Mark Burgess (@mnburgess) and myself (@ckburgess) to write about social media topics. And in the essence of transparency, AT&T is a client of Blue Focus Marketing.

I was asked to speak at AT&T’s first Annual Networking Leaders Academy Conference at their Bedminster, New Jersey office on “Expanding Your Influence: Lessons in Social Networking.” I had the pleasure of speaking along with Terry Brock (@TerryBrock), Michael Brenner (@BrennerMichael), Mario Armstrong (@MarioArmstrong) and Mark Schaefer (@markwschaefer). We shared personal stories on how we began our social media journey and shared our social media insights.

Slowly but surely, a new era is dawning on companies, one where true competitive advantage comes not from how many ads they can put out or how many “likes” they can rack up on Facebook, but from within their own organizations. The new proactive brand clearly understands the imperative of aligning its business goals with a culture of engaged employees.