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How marketers can lead the social business transformation

4 min read

Marketing Strategy

SmartBrief on Social Media, the daily snapshot of social media news and insights, relaunched today as SmartBrief on Social Business. This new focus reflects the broad changes to business in the social media era, from marketing to customer service to revenue models. As part of the relaunch, we’ve asked industry leaders to give their thoughts on what it means to be a social business. Today’s post is from Michael Brenner, vice president of Global Marketing for SAP.

Michael Brenner

A social business is not a business that sends a lot of tweets or has a ton of Facebook likes. It is one that realizes that it operates in a more transparent and social world.

A social business places equal value on the needs of its customers, employees, partners and shareholders.

This is not all that different from the concept behind one of the first posts I wrote about four years ago. In that post, I talked about a book called “The Service Profit Chain” that inspired a lot of my early professional thoughts on marketing strategy.

The basic theory presented in the book was that happier employees generate more customers who create more profit for the business. Makes sense, right? Yet in the race to quarterly profits, many businesses still struggle with the concept.

More recently I talked about the many reasons why social business is important and I presented my own road map to become a social business, including the need to define a social strategy that empowers social employees, activates effective content strategy and addresses the issue of culture.

Peter Kim from the Dachis Group offers his own definition of the Social Business as well as a Social Business Design. He identifies “culture, connections, participation and analytics” as the main drivers of an effective social business.

Charlene Li from Altimeter Group recently presented on the Evolution of Social Business and talked about the 6 stages of transformation: “Planning, Presence, Engagement, Formalized, Strategic, and Converged.” They surveyed a large swath of companies and found a small minority (28%) have achieved any level of social business maturity.

And then there’s my friend Jeremiah Owyang, who not only nailed how to bring content strategy into the social business, but also defined the next phase of social business as “the collaborative economy,” which he defines as “where brands will rent, lend, provide subscriptions to products and services to customers, or even further, allow customers to lend, trade, or gift branded products or services to each other.”

Edelman’s Michael Brito writes that “social business is not about communication. It’s not about technology or Enterprise 2.0. It’s about change management. I believe this to my core.” And I think he’s absolutely right.

But what is the role of the marketing leader in this emerging social business and collaborative economy?

In my view, marketing is uniquely positioned to lead this transformation. As more employees become socially active brand ambassadors and build their personal brand, marketing can act as the shepherd guiding the flock with good old fashioned marketing communications techniques that put the customer first, that are aligned to the business strategy and that deliver business outcomes.

Michael Brenner is the vice president of Global Marketing for SAP, where he leads content strategy and serves as the managing editor of the company’s award-winning Business Innovation thought-leadership blog site. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding. Follow Michael on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.

A version of this post first appeared on B2B Marketing Insider.