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The New Social Business Professional


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This is the era of the new social professional. Marketers and communicators alike have a unique opportunity to be the change agents that spark transformation in their organizations and bridge us from …

This is the era of the new social professional. Marketers and communicators alike have a unique opportunity to be the change agents that spark transformation in their organizations and bridge us from just "doing" social media to truly becoming social businesses. From understanding the business case for social to being willing to get in the trenches and do the hard work, today's social professionals have an immense challenge in front of them...and an unprecedented opportunity.

This was the presentation given by Amber Naslund as a keynote at the Marketo Summit in San Francisco on April 12, 2013.

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  • In 1610, an astronomer named Galileo made a remarkable discovery. With his refined version of the telescope, he managed to find four satellites orbiting the planet Jupiter. That had was significant for a couple of reasons. First of all, the discovery itself was valuable, because those moons had never been observed before. But secondly, the fact that these moons were orbiting a planet - ANOTHER planet - meant that the prevailing wisdom of the day was rocked to its core. You see in 1610, folks still believed that everything - including the sun - revolved around the Earth. Galileo’s discovery proved that that wasn’t so. We’re going through a similar seismic shift in our assumptions and understandings about business right now, thanks to the implications and emergence of the social web. In the last twenty years, the web has totally shifted our perspective about what’s possible, about how people work, about how we communicate . I n the last five years, social media has shifted our perspective again, highlighting a new center to the business universe that looks and feels a bit different than it has before. It’s an exciting time to be a marketer, to be someone who sits in between the customer and the organization and can break wide open these amazing technologies to create relationships and lines of communication that we never could before. And It’s an exciting time to be a professional because as we’ll talk about today, our jobs are part storytelling and part teaching and part strategy. You can see just in the last couple of years the frenzied pace, the sheer velocity of the web and how it has accelerated and changed our work.
  • - We’ve run headlong into social media with gusto and enthusiasm, shouting from the rooftops about how it’s going to revolutionize everything and how it’s changing the game. - We can communciate like never before at speed, and in real-time. - We can put relationship-building back at the center of our customer interactions AND do it through really incredible things like content and communities. - Those things are amazing, and full of incredible amounts of potential indeed. Just look around you today and you’ll hear stories of companies like Dell or Ford or IBM who are harnessing the potential of all of this and making themselves relevant again in a world that might otherwise have forgotten them.
  • But with all of those really amazing things comes a new set of expectations. With all of those implications comes ever-increasing pressure to be better. To be faster. To be smarter and more aware and more engaged and more collaborative and more responsive. We demand more of companies, from their investment in their communities to their responsiveness online. We demand more of organizations as employers and partners, seeking out more collaborative relationships in which we can contribute and invest and be part of something bigger than our jobs or our role as vendors. We want them to be honest with us. We want to talk to real people and feel as though our business matters at an individual level. We use words like “transparent” and “authentic”, but what we really want is clarity and to know that you have good intentions. What we need are companies who can transform themselves. Because if you think about all of those things, all of those new expectations, none of them are problems that are solved by social media. If anything, companies that do these things poorly AND endeavor to use social media will find themselves amplifying and highlighting those very problems. Instead, these are organizational problems that must be solved at an organizational level. And so we move from doing social media, to becoming a social business.
  • - by definition, you can ask five people and get five different answers. From a cultural and operational perspective, A social business values a certain set of characteristics. Things like agility and the ability to make decisions in real-time, at the margins of an organization. Social businesses value collaboration and innovation, but also understand that those things can’t just be values on a boardroom wall but something that is embedded in the organization at all levels. They embrace technology, but as an *enabler* of human potential, not the driver for behavior (so they use it sparingly, intelligently, and as the answer to a human problem without creating unnecessary complexity). Social businesses also understand when done well, social should touch the entire organization, inside and out. In practice, becoming a social business is about one key, central idea. While social media encourages us to be open, and more nimble, and more honest and human and transparent, social business is the practice of transforming your organization into one that can afford to be all of those things. That typically requires two key traits.
  • First is adaptation. When it all comes down to it, all of the characteristics we talk about in social organizations boils down to the ability to adapt to what’s thrown at you. Whether that’s a new way of working with customers or a new way of building and communicating your expertise, a new way of thinking or a new way of operating. Companies that can adapt will thrive. They’re the ones who recognize opportunity, and move to meet it.
  • The second is a coordinated and aligned framework to support that adaptation. Social media isn’t enough. It’s important, and it’s a part of the overall picture, but it’s just a part. What we need is a framework within our organizations that both centralizes vision and direction for social as a layer in our companies, and then is built to empower every area of the business to take that vision and build a strategy around it to suit their needs and business goals. The center will typically have representation from across the organization - Marketing, Customer Service, IT, HR, Legal, Executive management, Regulatory, you name it - and they collectively shape vision and direction to tie social business to organizational goals. Then they’ll help guide things like governance and policy development, education programs, platforms, guiding strategy, and the all-important tie-ins to culture initiatives.
  • Even just a year or two ago, I would have been standing up here telling you a lot about the potential of social business. I would have been encouraging you to hear me out while I told you that it was in your best interest to align your entire organization around social, to go beyond just marketing activities and consider social in a holistic way. If you thought I was smart, you might have believed me. If YOU were smart, you would have asked me for proof. For some evidence that this was a worthwhile investment. And I’m not talking about the almighty but bludgeoned ROI metric. I’m talking about tying business benefits to organization-wide social programs, the results of embedding social as a fundamental layer within an organization instead of relegating it to a set of campaigns and technological activities These are some compelling statistics on the real, tangible benefits that companies are seeing as a result of not just “doing” social media programs, but making a concerted effort to transform and adapt their organizations.
  • So if all that is true, why aren’t we seeing more businesses rushing out to do all of this? Why don’t we have oodles of case examples? First off, time isn’t quite on our side yet. As much as I’ll tell you that we’re much further along than we were a couple of years ago, we’re still in iceberg stage, merely seeing the very tip of the change that’s forthcoming. But let’s imagine that we have an organization that’s on board theoretically and idealistically with the IDEA of social business. They’re bought into the concept and the philosophy of being more adaptive, more open, more collaborative and taking social media as a cue to take a different approach in their companies. What’s stopping them?
  • These are some of the reasons that hundreds of CEOs gave in the past year or two on surveys and in research studies about why they haven’t yet adopted social programs deep into their organizations. Funny enough, what you don’t see in here are things like “understanding the ROI of Twitter”, or getting more whitepaper downloads, or getting more fans on Facebook. These challenges are organizational, like finding the right kind of talent to lead comprehensive social programs, or not having the right organizational structure to take advantage of the benefits of social business. It’s *much * larger than just convincing the boss that you should be on Pinterest or that they need to write a post for the blog. They care about the impact and the implications across the entire organization, and they care about making sure that these initiatives are coordinated and aligned, and tied to the larger business vision. The single biggest mistake today’s social professionals make when they try to get buy-in? Thinking of social media in isolation, as a strategy in itself or a collection of tactics, instead of as a supporting, horizontal foundation that the entire business can build upon. Because there are some significant complexities that come along with all of this. All those implications we talked about at the beginning? They have an effect on everything in our organization. Our attitudes. Our fears. We’re businesses made up of human beings, which means we have all of the worries and insecurities and messiness that humans do. We’re also missing some key organizational infrastructure. Some of these philosophies are SO different from what we’ve encountered before that we don’t have processes in place to support them. Remember when we had to figure out how to work email and the web into the way we work? Now we have to figure out what “being social “means in many more ways than just being on Facebook.
  • That’s a pretty arresting number right there. 43% can’t find the right talent. So what does that mean for marketing professionals? How do we take the pain out of these decisions for management? How can we alleviate concerns about not just resources but leadership, and how can we be the ones that can help adapt those processes and organizational practices to achieve more? How do we demonstrate that we’re capable of creating a vision for social media AND social business, and that we’re the right people to be involved to help guide the transformation? How do we show that we ARE the talent that our organizations need?
  • We need to reimagine our roles as marketers, and realize that marketers are better positioned than ever to be change agents in our organizations. We are uniquely positioned at the nexus of so many business crossroads of the customer and the company. We have a potentially insightful view into both the intent and story of the organization and the desires, needs, and passions of our customers, even as they go beyond the walls of our business.
  • One of the biggest mistakes social professionals make when they’re building a business case for social is that they dive right in and start talking about why Twitter is awesome or why Facebook fans will click ads or why blogging means people will fill out their contact form. But selling in a long-term, sustainable strategy has to be much more forward-looking than that. Sell the destination, not the ships it’ll take to get you there. That requires illustrating a sound vision for social business. Why does it matter? Why should we care about being an adaptive organization in the long run, long after Twitter has become something else and the next big thing has come along? Why should we care about our culture and our mindset being one of a “social” business versus the alternative, and why is that a good business move for us? We social professionals also need to be great inquisitors, great philosophers. We need to be those who are insatiably curious, who always quest for the “why” and the rationale behind decisions and actions. Who are willing to question the status quo, and let go of programs or initiatives that aren’t working in favor of exploring new territory. And we should be curious for the sake not just of finding an answer, but because we truly want to *understand*. Because it makes us smarter. Because it makes people excited and interested in what we’re doing when we can share our passion, our willingness to dig beneath the surface. And because it allows us to look at old, well-worn problems and tackle them in new ways.
  • If we are going to succeed in making social an imperative for every business at the very highest levels, we have to stop talking in social media jargon, focusing on tactics and tools, and chasing after the latest shiny thing. A solitary truth about social: the tools and technologies will ALWAYS change. What’s fundamental is the *intent* of social, which is to close the gap between businesses and their customers, employees, partners, and community. To create an organization that attracts and encourages people to be part of it. That means speaking on the level of *business* goals, not social media goals. As you saw before, executives care about top-line objectives that are supported and driven by the entire company. How can you increase revenue, sales, value? How can you decrease costs or risks? Can you deepen the relationships with your entire ecosystem to make them want to work with you longer? Can you engender deeper loyalty among employees and recruit and retain the very best talent? How can you keep ahead of your industry and the competition? How can you better return value to your partners, your vendors, and the people that make your business run? How can you design your organization to be more agile, more effective, more responsive to change and the pulse of the market? THOSE are the things we need to be talking about when we’re building support for our programs. not the number of Facebook fans we have. (Back to that in a minute).
  • Burnham and Root, late 1800s. Engineered a new type of bedrock to support building skyscrapers in Chicago. Fundamentally, companies need to build new and improved bedrocks in order to grow and achieve the kind of social pervasion that today’s business demands. Preservation: what is part of our legacy and success that we need to keep doing and maintain in the present Destruction: what must we destroy and leave behind in order to progress Creation: what do we need to build that we’ve not done before, or how do we need to change and evolve our current thinking to create something new? You can’t dictate culture, but you can guide and influence its development and nurture its growth. Convey vision (what will be different, and how will it make a difference for your organization? What are the critical behaviors? Engineer a sound foundation upon which to build. Demonstrate how new behaviors can advance the business (apply cultural values to specific goals on specific projects and use those as proving grounds); Integrate into HR processes (people do what’s measured and rewarded)
  • Credit for this concept: Vijay Govindarajan is the Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Srikanth Srinivas is a retired management consultant. One immense role we can play as marketers is helping our companies deal with their organizational memories. Many of our companies end up carrying very heavy burdens of obsolete practices and policies, outdated assumptions and mindsets, and products and services that no longer perform well but that we can’t seem to get rid of. That memory creates biases that get embedded in our planning, in our performance and reward systems, in our organizational structures and cultures. So when something comes along like the social web, we’re ill-equipped to maneuver and respond. Infosys: IT org that had to learn to provide professional services/consulting. Strategy Making — Instead of linear extrapolation from the past using rigorous data analysis, they focused on anticipating non-linear shifts by bringing in non-traditional voices such as, for example, key clients, and youth (who would have little, if any, organizational memory). Accountability — Instead of focusing on on-time, to spec, within budget delivery, they focused on disciplined experiments with the primary emphasis on learning rapidly, thus eliminating the defensiveness inherent in traditional organizations. Organizational Design — Instead of optimizing the way individuals collaborate through job specifications, work processes and organizational design, they formed special teams with a good mix of "outsiders" to challenge assumptions and bring a fresh set of skills and competencies. All these changes helped Infosys overcome the burden of the organizational memory of a very successful IT services company, while retaining all of the essential elements that were responsible for its success. As a result of this successful transformation, Infosys grew 25-fold over the decade from 2000 to 2010 — from $200 million to $5 billion. Look at what Yahoo is doing right now. Aetna, too:
  • Customers don’t care what role someone is in. Marketing supporting an entire customer lifecycle now. Importance of having talent at the helm that you can trust. Guidelines and education act as a proxy for decision endorsement and vision, entrust individuals with not just responsibility but accountability, the good judgment to do the right thing in the moment because they’ve been immersed in not just how something should be done ,but why it should be done that way.
  • As professionals, we fear blame. We don’t want to be the one who did something different, and did it wrong. If we take a risk, we become accountable for the outcome, and that scares us. It scares us because blame calls into question everything we value: our own capabilities, other people’s opinions of us, even our sense of self worth. So we spend most of our time mitigating risk and trying to avoid the downside of things, and covering our butts so we don’t get in trouble. And we don’t take the strides we could be taking to turn our roles from “just those social media people” into pivotal leadership and management roles within our organization that are focused on true organizational change.
  • As the representatives of a new generation of business professionals, it’s incredibly tempting to want to be the experts all the time. The go-to people that know it all. How many times have you heard about departments arguing over who should own social media? The real answer: We all do. The entire organization. The companies that are finding success with social programs aren’t permanently parking social in marketing and leaving it there. They’re using the individuals or the departments with interest, knowledge, and initiative to be the catalysts for bringing groups to the table that, long term, can own social media collectively. That means creating things like social media councils, or centers of excellence (we call it a Center of Gravity), or even steering committees where all areas of the organization are represented. They guide social media from the center, collaborating on overall vision and direction, acting as a center for *enabling* social media in each department’s strategy. It’s a model that works in companies large and small, and encourages shared knowledge and expertise while ensuring that each area of the business can use and leverage social in the way that makes sense for their objectives. Making a sound case for social initiatives means articulating that you know individual knowledge doesn’t scale, and that infrastructure is critical for the long term stability and scalability of any strategic direction.
  • I called our center of excellence a Center of Gravity because it highlights a key characteristic: Attraction: mutual affinity, value, purpose, goals, interests, even humor. We gravitate to like-minded people and organizations. Draw people in, give them something to be excited about, something to want to be part of. Gravitational force of something awesome, something more substantial than just getting on Twitter. I’m often asked why folks can’t seem to convince their colleagues to participate online or to help create content, and most often it’s because they haven’t found their attraction to it. Sometimes, that’s their lack of vision. Sometimes, their lack of vision is because of our inability to communicate it well enough. Either way... The truth is that until social business becomes an integral part of the way we work, it will continue to be an addendum to people’s roles, something they have to invest in to do well. That means that we have to give them enough incentive to WANT to work harder, something that is exciting enough and full of enough potential to level up the way that they work so that they’re not only willing to invest the time and energy but they’re beating down your door wanting to know how they can be part of it.
  • As those building the case for social in our companies, we are the most visible, vocal and credible representatives for social’s potential within our organizations. We can shape the path of not just what needs to get done and how, but we can rally others to our cause and help them see the ways that social can support and accelerate what THEY are trying to do within the company. Social business’ future depends not on it being established as yet another department in our companies. Its success depends on building it into the very bedrock of our organizations, helping it establish roots in every department, every discipline, every business unit. WE know that social can change more than just marketing for the better, so we have to work with our colleagues and partners and even our customers to help make that happen. We are also in the delicate but enviable position to be smack in the middle of the human element of change. Politics. Egos. Insecurity, confidence, excitement, fear, passion, distraction. We must be and become emotionally intelligent leaders and learners that know that change lives and dies among the humans, not the strategic plans or the clever tactics.  Our role is to build consensus that’s just uncomfortable enough to be interesting. Integrating the old with the new, and rebuilding that organizational memory in a way that designs a company equipped for a new, social mindset.
  • Critically, however, while we do that, we must not forget that in the early stages of change, we have to lead by example, too. Everyone wants to be a strategist, to set the vision and be the leader and be the person who comes up with the groundbreaking, game-changing plan that will absolutely change our organizations forever. A Fine goal, and definitely part of all of the elements we’ve talked about so far. But this kind of change is complex. Crunchy, messy, difficult. Which means that it happens, brick by brick. It’s in the trenches that the hard, messy work of social business transformation gets done. Plans and vision are important. Contributing to them is rewarding. But social professionals are on the bleeding edge of understanding, learning, and context more often than not. We need to fall in love again with the idea of *doing* the work, executing the programs, getting everyone in the room for the meeting. It’s leading by example and by demonstrating what it success looks like through our own willingness to back our vision with execution. It’s critical work that we’re doing and you may not think it’s sexy to monitor the dashboard or do online response or write a bunch of education content and presentations, but we *are* the bricklayers of the social era, and it’s up to us to set a standard for the work that we hope will develop around us. This also becomes about the almighty “thought leadership”; showcasing an expertise within our own organizations that demonstrates our grasp of more than just our job functions or our ability to rock at demand gen. It’s important to show that you’re not only willing to talk about the possibilities, but that you’re willing to put your own professional reputation on the line, get in the trenches, and help implement the plans that you’re so passionate about. That likely means going “above and beyond” your current job description, or your pay grade, or the boundaries of your role. Social business is a huge investment, and making the leap at the start requires a lot of people willing to do more than is expected of them in order to SHOW what’s possible, not just tell.
  • Insight is a skill and an art. And it’s something that can’t be overvalued in today’s world of so much information, so many streams of intelligence, so much riding on making smart yet nimble decisions. We social professionals love to present reports and dashboards, but what we *need* to be questing for are the insights that allow us to make better decisions. That, after all, is the point of measurement. Not the measurement itself, but the intelligence that allows us to be better at business. And that’s what our leadership wants to see. People are not marbles, but we love to collect them like they are. More likes! More followers! More traffic! The truth is that building online affinity is more about affirming the connections we already have, supporting and nurturing them. But we’ve developed an unhealthy obsession and skewed perspective of success by looking at the easy numbers that are handed to us, turning our business initiatives into thinly veiled popularity contests and gimmicks for votes and coupons and clicks. Clicking ‘like’ is a single click of a single finger; getting that from someone isn’t the same as loyal purchasing, or even community membership over a long period of time. The more important question to ask yourself: how are you engaging the community you have, and if it grows, what are you going to do with them once they give you their attention? How do you define success in a way that lines up with the goals of the *business*, beyond your campaign? What do those numbers actually *tell* you that’s of value, if they tell you anything at all? Be better. Be an analyst, not a marble counter. Let’s put in the effort to look beyond the metrics that are easy, that are handed to us because that’s what the technology people tell us matters (you know who wants you to get more likes on Facebook? Facebook does. Because then they have more people to advertise to). Let’s commit to one another that we can do better than followers and fans and actually look for data that tells us the story of our communities, that unfolds the narrative of why social business is effective for our organizations, that tells us why they like us and how they want to support us and where we can create not just better marketing, but better experiences around our entire company for the people that want to be part of what we’re doing. Our business case for social will be far stronger if we can look to our measurement programs as not just proof of activity, but proof of something much more important. Business intelligence that guides our initiatives and investments, both cultural and operational.
  • You probably feel this already, but one of our chief roles is that of educator. Sometimes counselor and therapist. But most of the time, it’s as an educator. Sure, part of that is training and teaching people about the functional aspects of social media, how it works, how we incorporate it into our work, the dos and don’ts and all that good stuff. But the smartest and most successful social professionals realize that the only way that social works at scale, the only way we can realize it’s potential, is for it to be part of *everyone’s* job. That means we’re charged not just with teaching the mechanics, but embedding knowledge about social throughout our organizations and teaching everyone to be a social business expert - to share the perspective about WHY this matters to business as a whole, to your company, to them and their role. Does that make you feel threatened? Worry that you’ll work yourself out of a job? Hardly. We’ll always need those who can help align and lead social business from a central place in the organization. But even more interesting than that, we have another job that will never really end or be irrelevant, no matter how many people “do” social.
  • As you can probably tell, In many ways, the age of the highly-focused specialist are ending. Think of all the things I’ve told you we have to do well in order to be tomorrow’s social professionals. Great communication. Analysis. Execution. Planning. Asking great questions. Learning to navigate not just the operational side of social business, but being stewards for the all-important cultural and personal side of our work. Getting in the trenches and not just preaching the change, but demonstrating it.  We’re marketers and business development professionals and customer service people and analysts and educators all at the same time. It’s so critical that we keep a broad perspective. There are very few roles in today’s organizations that are truly holistic, that build strategy and direction that impacts the whole organization. The CEO is one. IT and HR often sit across the organization as well. But marketing and sociall professionals have the unprecedented opportunity to become a holistic role that can impact business more than any role has in decades.
  • When it all comes down to it, “doing social” is an activity or a set of activities. You need a plan and some steps to take. That’s fine, and having one can get you a certain amount of buy-in to start with. But becoming a social BUSINESS is about a cultural and operational shift that touches the entire organization. It’s part of the very foundation of what you’re doing because the decisions you make at the margins of a company now have implications throughout. It affects process. It affects procedure. It requires technology. The trickiest part is making the transition between creating those activities and creating the atmosphere where social isn’t something that you do, but rather something that you are. A part of your values. Where you become an adaptive organization that is committed, long-term, to understanding the implications of the social web on your business and continually being willing to adjust to accommodate that. Doing that successfully requires the hearts and minds of the people that are involved. Emotional investment in the possibilities of social is critical for long-term buy in. You can sell all the solutions all day long, but until the mindset of the organization is aligned with what being an adaptive organization can do, it’s just window dressing. Remember that for all of the programs you’re trying to approve, what you’re really doing is advocating for a particular state of mind. Your business case must be practical, functional, and structural. It’s also got to be “soft”, and appeal to the passion, vision, and aspirations of the people inside your company. We all aspire to do and be more, and building a case for social in your organization isn’t just about proving what you can do. It’s about showing people what you can BE.
  • That’s a pretty big charge. And an awesome one. You’re here because you know how important your role is, you want to do it better, and you know that it’s more than just Twitter and Facebook and dashboard reports. So quit telling me you aren’t big/little/fast/slow/innovative/well-budgeted/supported/whatever. If you want the results you make the time, you fight the fight, you come to work every day with the audacity to believe that you can change things. That there are no shortcuts. Community and social media are long, slow burns and changes that take time and focus. We have to have the discipline and devotion to see them through, every day. It’s our job to spark people to think bigger. We should be inspiring as much as convincing. if we aren’t making the case that our leadership can believe in, that our companies can slowly but surely rally behind and support through their actions as well as their words, that’s partially our fault. We are the professionals with the knowledge, the passion, the belief that social can and does make a difference not just to our marketing, but to our work. It’s true that we often aren’t the captains of our ships, not yet. But transformational change isn’t just pulled from the top, it’s pushed from within. We can either be courageous enough to try to make this happen, or we can let this all happen to us. I know which I’d rather do. So my challenge to you all here today, as you interact in these sessions and hear presentations from smart people, is to see yourselves as more than just a marketer. I want you to keep thinking bigger. Keep looking at the huge shift that businesses need to make to stay relevant today and to innovate and do incredible things tomorrow. And realize that you can indeed be a critical part of that shift if you’re willing to take on the challenge. We are doing the work to pave the way for future generations to have social business be what they know and breathe, not just what they aspire to. And we have a great deal of work to do.
  • I hope you find all the vision and inspiration you’re looking for at the Marketo Summit this year, and that you each head back to your organizations knowing that you can indeed ignite powerful and transformational change. I’m Amber Naslund, thank you so much for having me here today, and for your time. My best to you in your next adventures.