Social Business ROI Secrets, Revealed: Opting In with IBM’s Ed Brill (Part I)

Looking for some real-world examples of businesses who are adopting social strategies and performing better financially? Then you’ll definitely want to check out this conversation I had with Ed Brill – IBM’s Director of Mobile Enterprise Marketing and author of Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager.

For those of you who are reading-adverse and want just the ‘meat’, I have some key takeaways from our interview and Ed’s book. But first, here is a brief primer for the uninitiated.

What exactly is ‘Social Business’?

Ignite Chicago – Grant Crowell from DietzMedia on Vimeo.

 ‘Social Business’ can be defined as connecting internal and external stakeholders with tools that improve the quality and quantity of human engagement, towards measurable performance goals that keep the business sustainable and profitable, and allow its stakeholders to thrive.

Social business often gets confused by newbies with social media marketing. So what’s the real difference?

“I look at social as a way to insert people in the business process”, says Ed. “Like most everyone else, I’ve personally used social media to build friendships and connect with others. But in the context of what IBM calls social business, it’s how do we bring our own people and connect them with each other and the outside world; and continually refine that process to improve the way that we go to market; and make ourselves human in the eyes of the customers so they want to do business with us.”

Simply put, social business is about running a business and not just marketing a business. It requires focus to the internal side and not just the external side. Oftentimes it requires more than just adopting new technologies or new platforms; it usually requires a shift in the existing business culture that is more supportive of ‘social values’ that consumers and employees expect today: transparency, agility, mobility, authenticity, connectivity, and simply operating with a greater sense of purpose than oneself, i.e., humanity. 

As a side note: I myself was heavily involved with research duties for the book, Socialized! ™ How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social, which covers enterprise success stories in social business, and IBM received the largest coverage in it over any other brand. You can check out IBM’s Social Business YouTube channel and my own Social Business Playbook video.

Why you should get this book

Many ‘social’ books tend to focus on the external side, or are written from a 3rd person-perspective rather than as an insider. What I really liked about Ed’s book is how well he explains the special role a product manager has with driving social business and balancing the management as well as marketing sides. He’s especially good at showing you how to craft a business plan; how to drive it; how you have to work with salespeople and other stakeholders on your team; and especially how you need to have influence or work with those who do have influence. This is because of what you do and don’t own as well as what and whom you are dependent on. It’s a good read for social media marketers to grasp what is the larger role that social has with owning, managing, and running a business. It is also good for product managers and other business managers for putting a social business strategy into action. 

Key Takeaways from the Book

The 3 pillars of social business for IBM:

  • Engagement – Optimize productivity and efficiency by deeply connecting customers, employees, suppliers, partners, and influencers and maybe even competitors.
  • Transparency – Demolish boundaries to information, experts, and assets, thereby improving alignment, knowledge, and confidence.
  • Agility – Use information and insight to anticipate/address evolving opportunities, make faster decisions, and become more responsive.

IBM’s ‘Holy Grail’ for Social Business ROI

  • Train sales teams on social tools. “In our sales teams, we put them in a control group and a group that was actually using social tools, both internal and external — internal to get better answers to questions from customers, and external to communicate with those customers”, says Ed. “The ones who were using social business tools were more successful by 7% at closing business; and 26% more leads were coming into them versus the control group that wasn’t using the tools. So we know we’re making more money by using these tools to engage with our customers, bring ourselves to their point-of-presence, and share expertise all throughout the organization.”
  • Have a ‘champion program’ to recognize and reward those who are strong advocates for your products and your brand. The IBM Champions program is a strong platform for how they identify and support advocates in their own market.
  • Support everyone in your organization to play some part in social media or just engaging with the public. Provide your employees and other internal stakeholders with a social media guide in clear language that spells out their opportunities and responsibilities, and allow them to make mistakes. IBM’s own Social Computing Guidelines are publicly available that you can learn and borrow from, and are an excellent example of how to encourage people by stressing the “do’s” over the “don’ts.”

Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager, is available at Amazon and IBM Press.

Stay tuned for Part 2, featuring my full-length interview and podcast with IBM’s Director of Mobile Enterprise Marketing, Ed Brill.

More Links and Resources

Want more Ed Brill? Here’s where you can connect with him:

Select Social Business Resources