Cover Story
In the digital media space, Social Driver takes up a lot of VROOM!
By Brenda M. Beveridge
Social Driver’s CV reads like a company that has been around for 20 years instead of an ambitious startup that just turned seven. With a vision to move up by being a trusted partner, it has helped some of the world’s most recognizable businesses and nonpro fits achieve firsts using digital and social media.
When Honda North America Inc. was searching for a better way to communicate its government relations, Social Driver made it the first automaker to use social media for government relations. When the Gener al Equivalency Diploma or GED Testing Service LLC wanted to launch a social media campaign to engage thousands of successful GED grads, Social Driver led the way with GED Grad Day. When companies seek to make themselves more transparent to their clients through interactive maps and mobile-friendly annual reports, Social Driver clears the path.
Not in Kansas anymore
In 2012, husbands Thomas Sanchez, founder and CEO, and Anthony Shop, co-founder
and chief strategy officer, came to Washington D.C. from Kansas City with an idea for a small, digital media startup. In the beginning, it was just the two of them and the belief that technology has the power to transform businesses and lives. A few years later, they grew the company to five employees. Now, Social Driver has grown into a strong and notable business with a presence on two coasts and abundant recognition from top corporations, business alliance organizations and customers and clients, including the designation No. 1 Largest LGBT-Owned Company in Greater D.C. by the Washington Business Journal.
“Social Driver is what we call a digital agency, meaning we help our clients connect with people today through social media, websites and digital creative,” Sanchez said.
Social Driver has built a world-class team to meet the demands of clients who want to be on the cutting edge. Those clients have propelled Social Driver not only through repeat business, but also by recognizing it as a stellar company with great customer service and impressive results.
Send in the SWAT team
 “We are not a PR firm that happens to have a couple web developers on staff. We are not an ad agency that just happens to have one social media person. Our entire team is made up of digital and social media heavy-hitters,” Sanchez said. “Our clients may have some people in-house who do some digital, and I call them ‘beat cops.’ But when they need the SWAT team, they call Social Driver because we are experts in the digital world.”
Investment in trust
“What we’ve learned over time is that our clients live project by project. They need a new website; they hire us. They need new video; they hire us. They need a new social media campaign; they hire us. And, they come back to us again and again, because we have a long-term relationship and perspective with our clients,” he said. “We have never taken any outside investments; we’ve never taken any outside debt either. Our investors are our customers and clients because they invest in us, and the return on that investment is trust.”
In 2015 Social Driver was nominated for the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce or NGLCC Supplier of the Year award by clients, including Accenture PLC and Bishop-McCann LLC. The award—which it won—recognizes an exemplary, certified LGBT-owned business enterprise for its success in doing business with corporate America.
Of winning NGLCC’s top honor, Sanchez said: “It really was one of those moments
where we just understood how much we’ve put forth towards our vision of building [not
only] an LGBT-owned business, but also a world-class business that happens to be LGBT-owned.”
In addition, Social Driver has accumulated many other awards. Washington Business Journal honored Sanchez as a Minority Business Leader and recognized Shop in its “40 Under 40” listing. Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce named Sanchez Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year. He was also honored as DC Chamber of Commerce Small Business Champion of the Year and Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Innovator of the Year.
Community involvement
Shop and Sanchez have taken key roles outside of the office and in the community by investing time and financial support in LearnServe International, a nonprofit organization that equips high school students with the knowledge, business tools and relation ships they need to transform their schools and communities. Shop founded the National Digital Roundtable, a premier group of experts who come together to discuss digital transformation in off-the-record settings.
“We had the opportunity to get experts from organizations like NASA, CNN and Google and get them all in a room to learn from and listen to each other,” Shop said. “Sometimes we say, ‘Wow! That was such a great conversation, we should put together a panel discussion and have an audience, so that we can bring that knowledge to even
more people.’”
Upward and onward
Social Driver has a mantra: “The future is bright, all progress is social and the drivers make history.”
Shop said, “The future is bright means that despite all the bad things that we see happening on the news, we believe things are getting better every day. But, we can only get to that bright future if we work together—that’s what we mean by all progress is social.”
He continued, “The third part—the drivers make history—means that while a lot of people sit on the sidelines, we’ve decided to get in the driver’s seat to help others and ourselves do things we never could have done before. Today, we can accomplish things that seemed impossible a few short years ago; that’s what gets us up in the morning.”