Ideas and insights to take your marketing to the highest level

October 29, 2014
Mark Burgess

Plotting a Course for Social Business

In many organizations, a gap exists between aspiration and implementation when it comes to social media marketing, or what a marketing team wants to do in social versus what present organizational infrastructure is set up to support. A recent study by IBM found that 94% of CMOs believe that advanced analytics will help them achieve their goals, yet a full 82% say that their organizations are not prepared to capitalize on this opportunity.

The question, naturally, is how to address this considerable gap. And the answer carries with it the idea that social marketing is an organizational value. Successful social marketing is the result of a well-structured social business, and a well-structured social business requires organization-wide buy-in, employee training and an evolved infrastructure. In other words, a commitment to social marketing means a commitment to a much larger process. A brand cannot communicate externally unless it first learns to communicate internally. A company’s external branding success, then, is merely a reflection of a successful, thriving employee culture.

So how does an organization plot a course for social business? It starts with commitment from the C-suite, including much-needed input from the CMO. The next step is to launch a pilot program, which can be structured around the following framework:

1. Discovery and insight gathering: Establish a task force to determine what organizational assets are available, define and prioritize organizational needs, and outline a strategy to begin moving forward. Identify employees interested in becoming social business evangelists and seek their input.

2. Social media policy: A 2013 Altimeter report found that while 85% of organizations surveyed had at least a minimal social media policy in place, only 52% had guidelines for engaging through external channels. For social marketing to succeed, employees must understand and internalize a set of organizational guardrails that will empower their actions.

3. Employee and executive training: Employees at all levels of a social business need to have at least a basic understanding of how organizational policy meets day-to-day practice. Employees interested in taking their training further often have the opportunity to become social leaders within the company.

4. Social and collaborative platforms: Organizations must remember that “social media” does not just pertain to externally facing platforms. How social employees engage, share information and collaborate within an organization is even more important, and a variety of tools are available to meet organizational needs.

5. Metrics and alignment to goals: Companies are increasingly coming to find that they are able to measure just about anything, but the tricky part is knowing what to measure. For every push to justify ROI, there should be an equal push to justify ROC: return on human capital.

Naturally, organizations will approach their pilot programs differently. But however the details shake out, the results will reflect an organization’s commitment to the process. The more the marketing department is engaged in this process, the more these specialists are ready to act as branding coaches for the rest of a company’s employees, and the more authentic all employee interactions across an enterprise will become. The end goal—transparent social marketing—may be simple enough, but this goal must be consciously woven into the very fabric of an organization’s values in order to ignite a workforce of engaged brand ambassadors.


This is an excerpt from “Modern Marketing Equals Social Engagement,” published in the November 2014 issue of Marketing News.

Mark Burgess is co-founder and president of social branding consultancy Blue Focus Marketing, and co-author of The Social Employee. Previously, he has held marketing and advertising positions at AT&T, PricewaterhouseCoopers and McCann-Erickson. Burgess regularly presents on topics such as social media and integrated marketing communications for the AMA. For more information, visit AMA.org/Events.

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