Is Your Business Ready To Be A Social Business?

A new IBM study shows social media is being integrated into business processes beyond channels – to learn more about the insights, I had a fascinating conversation with Eric Lesser,Research Director of the IBM Institute of Business Value. 

Generally speaking, I don’t have to convince too many entrepreneurs that this social media thing is here to stay. By now, the conversation has largely shifted from “is this viable?” to “what should our presence on social media look like and how does this fit into the overall brand?”

Don’t look now but the conversation about social media’s about to change once again. Not merely about this or that new channel. Not about what Facebook is adding or restricting.

No, I’m talking about something deeper – the growth of social business

Social business is about integrating the technology of social media into your business practices. It involves social tools to encourage greater team collaboration, productivity, new idea generation, better customer communication, streamlined processes and more.

If this concept a leaves your company feeling a bit behind the times in its progress, don’t panic. A new study can help reveal how organizations like yours can use social approaches to create meaningful business value.

I had the opportunity to speak with Eric Lesser, Research Director of the IBM Institute of Business Value, who recently spearheaded a new study on social business.  Through surveys and in-depth interviews of nearly 1200 individuals from leading organizations, Lesser and his team uncovered powerful insights on how companies are facing the prospect of not only adding on social media channels but becoming a true social business.

Dan Gershenson: How does social business change the landscape for business?

Eric Lesser: Throughout IBM’s Institute for Business Value study, we talked to people in industries from telecom to restaurants, from business-to-business to business-to-consumer. What do they have in common? They recognize that if they’re going to truly integrate social media in their businesses, they can’t just port over the tools they use in their personal lives. They have to learn how to use social media in ways specific to their business. Take training for example. What if you were able to use social approaches to create a community of learners that tapped into new content? Rather than instruction books, what about creating an instructional video that people could comment on? What opportunities can social create to allow you to listen better to customers and vendors for great ideas?

DG: How are companies beginning to recognize its importance?

EL: Through our study we found that social business is an area garnering significant attention and investment – almost half of the companies we spoke with in the study increased their investment in 2012. Interestingly, while Marketing and PR are the top two investments of these companies, they’re not the areas with the largest jumps in expected growth. That actually belongs to the areas of Customer Service, Sales, IT and HR.

DG: Why the biggest growth in those areas?

EL: Managing the brand and perception is as crucial as ever. There’s no doubt about that. But there’s also a need to apply social media to how internal work is actually going to get accomplished. Do these companies have all the answers to that yet? No. In fact, we see that more than 2/3 of the companies we talked to are underprepared for cultural changes as a result of social business. They felt their internal cultures were not social business oriented and they aren’t working enough on the applications of social business inside and outside the organization.

They’re not sure about the endgame.

DG: What can they do to prepare better for a shift like this?

EL: The question is not merely about getting more ideas but setting up more opportunities for ideas to come from anywhere.

As companies grow, the knowledge around the organization becomes more distributed, so making connections in the most productive ways becomes increasingly important.

Customers are expecting companies to know much more about them. That means companies can’t just rely on manufacturing and product knowledge. They need to deliver customer-driven content more effectively. Don’t just provide me a manual, but provide me with experts who understand my challenges and can show me how to fix my issues on a customized level. Some companies will struggle with this but customers are expecting this kind of service in their environment. They don’t want to have difficulty spelling out a challenge or they’ll move on.

Four Social Business Trends for 2013
Here are the next big movements Lesser expects companies to make in the coming year as they adapt further to being social businesses.

#1 Innovative Listening Methods More In Demand

On one hand, Lesser found companies were using social business methods to communicate 1-on-1 but also to communicate to crowds. That puts better monitoring tools at a premium while paying attention to sentiment analysis of your organization. “Some of this is going to be reactive, such as customer service through Facebook or Twitter,” he says. “But some of this will be proactive. This involves finding influencers and mavens connecting them to the organization and embracing their networks.”

#2 Customer Communities Continue To Rise

With people having a passion for virtually everything and anything, there’s no shortage of opportunities for community building. But how do companies set up those communities?

“Communities are built by bringing together individuals with a passion for your product or service, and engaging in an ongoing dialogue with them,” Lesser says. “For example, LEGO provides members of its communities the chance to submit an idea for a product and if it’s accepted, they get a cut of the royalties.”

You don’t have to be a large corporation for this idea to take shape – how can you involve your audience in product development or reward them for feedback?


#3 Shift from Brand Management to Greater Sales/Post-Sales Service

I started to panic a little when Lesser mentioned this development – what’s that? No more branding? To my relief, branding isn’t going away anytime soon. But it’s far more than establishing a presence, as Lesser explained.

“What’s going to be big in the next 2-3 years in using leads to drive sales is, how do we make sure the experiences across our social platforms aren’t completely disjointed? How is the overall look and feel seamless? That’s one of the opportunities for a much closer CMO-CIO partnership. There seems to be a recognition of a need to work together more effectively on areas like customer data and mobile. It’s going to be harder for a CMO to be successful without a CIO and vice versa.”

#4 Greater Shared Governance of Social

Less than 1/3 of the companies Lesser and his team spoke with have a shared governance when it comes to this concept of social business. “But the ones that do recognize that it doesn’t just belong to marketing and media relations. You’ve got to have sponsorships from multiple functions within the company, from HR to legal to risk management. They’re not just reacting to potential problems, but looking for opportunities.”

“Social business has far-reaching implications throughout the organization because when you’re asking employees to be ambassadors of your brand, everyone needs to better understand what customers demand.

Social business comes from recognizing that great ideas can come from anywhere in the organization, vendors and customers if you provide enough opportunities for it to happen.”

What would Burnett, Bernbach and Ogilvy think of social media?

I thought it would be fun to imagine what would happen if the three biggest titans of advertising — Leo Burnett, Bill Bernbach and David Ogilvy — came back to civilization for one week to provide their views on our modern day developments, most notably social media. Their lunch meeting might sound like this:

Bill Bernbach: Gentlemen, great to see you again.

David Ogilvy: And you, old boy. How was everyone’s week in getting reacquainted with the world?

Leo Burnett: Well, things must be going OK over at my old place. They haven’t taken my name off the door. Would any of you care for an apple?

Bernbach: No, but thank you, Leo. I suppose we should get right to what’s on our minds and a shock to our systems, eh?

Ogilvy: Indeed. The Internet. It’s quite a marvel. You can’t ignore it. It’s everywhere. And this social media is consuming everyone’s lives.

Burnett: I saw Facebook and at first, I have to say I wasn’t a big fan. There’s a big banner at the top that you can use to put a picture on, but you can’t do any promotional copy! What’s the point?

Bernbach: And the layout of these channels struck me — you can only customize them so much. I wondered what kind of world people are living in where such limitations are placed on copy and art direction.

Burnett: I didn’t love the fact that we’re not seeing the product benefit clearly with social media either, but . . . I think what I’ve come to accept is that it’s so very different from advertising. I’m actually not sure that some brands or perhaps even some agencies understand that, which is a tragic mistake.

Ogilvy: I’ll tell you, though — what I do appreciate about it is how people are using social media to listen to the audience. The research person in me loves that. Now if we can utilize this new technology to better understand what drives the audience to behave in the way they do and buy the things they buy . . . They’re actually sharing nuggets of insight if we’re just smart enough to listen.

Bernbach: There is one thing that troubles me. I’ve found in this new era that it’s very chic to label advertising as interruption. To the point of where some people are calling it “dead.” I just don’t agree with that assessment — not at all.

Burnett: Agreed. When it’s a lousy ad, you can consider it interruption. We have always started from a position where we are an uninvited guest at their dinner table or in their living rooms trying to earn their trust. When it’s a great ad that makes you laugh, cry, think . . . feel anything, that’s what I call a welcome surprise. A person can look forward to that again and again. If we know how to reach for the stars in what we create, that is.

Ogilvy: People are triggered to hate advertising because so much of it is not very good. But that doesn’t mean it should be eliminated, nor does it mean that you can’t compel the reader to wave a banner in your brand’s favor. Electronic devices to keep advertising out be damned — people will beat a path to your product or service if you know how to speak to them. That held true in our time, and it holds true today.

Bernbach: I do like websites and blogs a bit more for the creative freedom you can have — and at the same time, what brands are able to control. Like anything, it’s got to be an interesting, imaginative and fresh experience. And it’s entirely possible for the person visiting to be immersed in the brand on a website. Some copywriters and graphic designers these days complain about how it’s not the world that it used to be when they worked on traditional ad campaigns, but is there not an opportunity for great copy and great design on the web?

Burnett: Right. I don’t see the difference. Doesn’t a website need exceptional art direction? Doesn’t a blog require outstanding writing? If it’s not a TV spot, doesn’t it need to be an entertaining video to hold the person’s attention?

Ogilvy: Yes. When TV came along, it changed so much about what we did in some ways, but in other ways it didn’t change a thing. The type of media was different, but just as ever, we still needed to make the experience for the person absorbing our advertising into something magical.

Burnett: So you believe social media can be magical, too?

Bernbach: After that first impression that jarred me, I can say I do. The way to artfully tell a story has always required an element of sophistication that speaks to the audience with respect rather than a “buy now” message that hits them over the head. Whether it was Tony the Tiger, a Volkswagen or the man in the Hathaway shirt. We have always had to work so hard to be invited into people’s homes, listened to, accepted and championed. Now we have to work just as hard to be invited into their computers and their social circles. What’s changed, really?

Burnett: True. But there is something special happening. There’s no doubt about it. You know it when you hear the term “revolution” kicked about like it was in our day. That’s exciting. Yet what’s equally exciting to me is the principles we lived by in our time are still relevant today — as you said, storytelling for a brand.

Ogilvy: We still have a little bit of time — is there anything else from today’s era we love?

Burnett: Absolutely. I’ve seen it and can’t get enough of it.

Bernbach: What’s that, Leo?

Burnett: “Mad Men.”
(Originally ran here in Crain’s Chicago Business:

Political Candidates Must Vote For Social Media Early and Often.

No matter what side of the left or right you sit on issues, the actions of one candidate pose a good lesson about where social media should rank in terms of political campaign clout.

Even though he’s running a distinct 3rd (or 4th if you were looking at his results here in Illinois), it’s a tad mystifying to me that Newt Gingrich has decided to pour so much of his budget into social media at this late stage of his campaign. Not that this is a bad move at all but the timing of it is unfortunate for him as it appears in his case that using social media seems like a method of last resort when campaign staffs get slashed and budgets dwindle. If so, that’s a lousy view of how to use it. If we didn’t learn anything from 2008 politics, it’s that social media has officially arrived as a standard and absolutely essential component of any campaign’s success, Republican or Democrat.

Regardless of whether you’re running for President or Alderman of Chicago’s 44th Ward, you can’t see social media as an afterthought. You have to see it as a vital investment right out of the gate to help mobilize your supporters and encourage fluid communication. Without it or without much consistent use of it, you’re pinning too much of your hopes on traditional methods. And while you still have to get out there and press the flesh of potential voters to be relevant, you can’t ignore the undecideds behind a computer screen who might be searching for clear positioning points of view of your candidate.

It just proves once again how important it is to have good planners behind the scenes who can truly make or break these “brands” with how they select media and craft the right message. It’s really not that far removed from how we strategize the success of products and services.

Special rate for our readers to see Seth Godin, Gary V. and more!

Seth Godin. Gary Vaynerchuk. Mitch Joel. Randi Zuckerberg. Keith Ferrazzi. Avinash Kaushik.

Hearing one of these influencers in the world of social media and marketing is rewarding in itself. Hearing from all of them in one day is what I call one awesome intelligence download. Which is exactly what you can do when you join me in attending a special conference called The Art of Marketing, coming to The Chicago Theatre on Tuesday, April 24th.

If you want to get a better handle on metrics and analytics, creativity, brand development, marketing strategy and where social media is headed next, this is money well spent.

Especially since you can spend less of it as one of my readers.

That’s right. I’ve just been offered a special preferred rate from the event’s organizers to pass along to readers of Chicago Brander. Drum roll, please……

Special Offer:

Readers of will receive a savings of $50.00 per ticket or $100.00 per ticket when registering 3 or more people at the same time. This is a great deal as the regular price to attend The Art of Marketing is $399.

The promo code you can use when registering online is SK23 or by using this link:

To learn more about this incredible event, visit the event’s main link at:

For questions, call 416.479.9701 / 1.866.99.ART.OF

Hope to see you there for what should be a sold-out event!


Don’t Be A Channel Changer Over Facebook Timeline.

I’m hearing some reaction to the Facebook changes that have to do with its Timeline feature and frankly, I think the hysteria is quite overblown.

Whoa. Let’s slow down and remember a couple things.

1) You don’t own Facebook.
They can do whatever they want and it’s your choice to participate in it for free. I didn’t say they always make moves that are right (even Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t say that). But you and I both know they’re in control of the site at the end of the day.

2)  Switching to another channel over what is essentially a layout change is frivolous.
You can flee to another social media channel in protest…that will eventually make changes to its layout/visibility settings that you’ll protest, causing you to either go back to Facebook or another channel entirely. The Timeline change may annoy you but it’s not worth picking up and moving over. I saw a comment from someone who said “I’m going to Google Plus and I hope they won’t mess with anything the way Facebook is!”

Let me save you some time. They will.

You may like the changes, you may not, but they will change in appearance and functionality from what they have now. Regardless…why place the importance on that rather than the importance of conveying and sharing great content with the audience you care about? Does it prevent you from doing that? No. When a social media channel prevents you from easily creating and sharing the content that matters, that’s when I have issues with it. If another channel can do that for me in a more advanced way, you bet I’ll take a closer look at that option – not necessarily to replace the former, but to add to the overall mix.

If you want greater control over the content you create and share, take a look at your website and blog. These aren’t the only places your content should be living, but they are the places where a lot of your content can originate from.

Facebook is often a great distribution channel, but not necessarily the greatest place for certain types of content to originate from. This is why putting the whole of your brand into outside social media channels while ignoring your own “house” is a mistake that’s really worth getting upset about – a lot more upsetting than anything Facebook is going to change.