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Michael Brenner is senior director of global marketing for SAP. He is also author of the B2B Marketing Insider blog and cofounder of social news site Business 2 Community. Michael is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 101 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

The Social Business Imperative

01.17.2013
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What is the value of a social business? How do we become one? Can you create one? Or is it more about culture, motivation and the enablement of social forces already in play in today’s workforce?

These are questions that are not just being asked by marketers but by CEOs, business leaders and entrepreneurs around the world. We are rapidly moving beyond the question of why we need to become a social business to how to become a social business.  And how to maximize the value and the innovation that can result.

So stick with me while we take a brief journey. I’ll start with the market forces that are driving the realization that our businesses need to change or they will die. That we truly have a social business imperative.

We’ll talk about why this is important for CEOs and the amazing opportunity this holds for marketers who can seize the moment. Finally, we’ll talk about some simple steps to consider to achieve the goal of becoming a social business.

IBM study on Social CEOs

The Digital, Social, Mobile Revolution

The world has changed rapidly in just a few short years. The rise of the internet and then very quickly social connectivity and mobile accessibility have led to an amazing consumer revolution unlike anything before. And traditional organizational models have not been able to keep up. Not even close.

A survey by IBM of more than 1,700 CEOs earlier this year showed that only 16% of CEOs are active on social but projected that 57% of them expect to be in the next 3-5 years. Why the huge shift?  Because CEOs are seeing the opportunity to connect their suppliers, customers and employees using social technology.

According to Mark Fidelman on Forbes, the study reveals that CEOs are working hard to create a culture of “openness, transparency and employee empowerment.”

A more recent survey by social analytics firm Domo reveals that only 7% of CEOs are on Facebook, 4% on Twitter and in total, more than 70% have no social presence at all. Domo’s CEO Josh James believes that these CEOs are hurting their business results and “doing shareholders a massive disservice.

Marketing Is Dead!

As Bill Lee mentions in this widely shared Harvard Business Review article, CEOs are starting to see that traditional marketing is dead. And he continues to report that CEOs have lost patience with marketing.

Bill cites a 2011 study of 600 CEOs that report that nearly three-quarters of CEOs feel that their CMO “lacks business credibility” (73%) and are tired of being asked for money without a forecasted business impact (72%).

And CMOs? Well they seem to agree! 71% of CMOs admitted to feeling unprepared for the challenges of today’s business environment in a separate IBM survey.

“Social Media Sanitation”

In a recent talk, Altimeter analyst Jeremiah Owyang also painted a picture that the world has changed. And that we need “open leaders” who can manage reactionary internal pressures and the increasing content demands of today’s information-saturated world.

He predicts that companies grounded in social media sanitation simply won’t scale. They will be stuck in cycles of reactionary pressures.

I agree. I also believe marketing leaders who fail to lead their companies on the path to scalable social business practices will continue to see their credibility threatened, their budgets shrink and their role devolve to one of managing a few outsourced vendor partners who coordinate events, manage the website and blast some emails.

Have I scared you enough yet to see the need to change? Well don’t take my word for it. Follow all the references included above and think long and hard about the marketing leadership gap and the role of marketing in your organization.

The Social Business Imperative

There is only once conclusion: we need to become social businesses. We need to accept the imperative to transform our organizations into an open, social and engaged community of active content producers.

Marketing has an opportunity to lead this change. We can drive social, content and employee empowerment strategies to move beyond social guidelines and governance to social activation and encouragement.  We need to help our organization build an army of brand ambassadors with strong personal brands.

The Social Business Model

I have to admit to being more than a little envious of the approach taken by our friends at IBM. Mark Fidelman gushes about them as the model of social business today as well as in the future. After reading those testimonials it’s easy to see why.

At a recent event, I heard Kevin Green talk about how he helped IBM model social business types. Then they used those segments (examples include “creators, listeners, responders“) to develop a “social eminence” program.

They now have 4,000 empowered ambassadors (who wouldn’t want that?) across the organization who are constantly seeking to make social connections with content and that can be mobilized at a moment’s notice.

They claim it is “the most powerful marketing tool they have” as those conversations are driving 3 times the conversions of more traditional marketing efforts.

What is the path to a social business?

  • I think we need a solid social strategy that empowers all employees (not just in marketing) to become strong personal brands and ambassadors for our company.
  • We need an effective content strategy to put the knowledge, passion and experience of our employees to work to answering our customers’ information needs.
  • We need new skills and people to drive social activation across all layers of the organization.
  • We need social leaders at the top and throughout our organizations that drive change from our traditional company culture to one of openness, transparency and engagement.

 

Published at DZone with permission of Michael Brenner, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)