Posts Tagged ‘Cheryl Burgess’
As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m grateful for the people in my life: a wonderful family, great friends, phenomenal clients.
I’m also very thankful for the brilliant, insightful, and engaging people I’ve “met” online, and for the social media technologies that make that possible.
Lifelong learning has always been vital for career success, but social media has simultaneously made it easier and much broader. In the pre-Internet days, professionals kept their knowledge and skills up to date by attending conferences, reading books, and subscribing to trade magazines.
Many still use those same resources, but also broaden their perspective and specific expertise through social media. The problem with relying on “paid” media is that the costs of print publishing and events necessarily limit the number of “voices” that can be heard to the most popular.
Though such voices still command large audiences, blogging and social networks have greatly increased the number of voices that can be heard. Smart people with interesting perspectives who may, for a variety of reasons, not have been published in traditional media can attract modestly sized but specialized and highly engaged audiences online. Professionals have a much wider and richer range of sources to turn to for ongoing learning.
I’m grateful this year in particular for the expanding list of marketing and PR professionals who really stand out in terms of producing and sharing valuable content and being socially engaging. Here’s a partial visual snapshot; you can find and subscribe to the full list here. Check out these experts; you may find yourself thankful for them well before this time next year.
Stories about how top executives just don’t “get” social media and the concept of social business were common four or five years ago. But it’s jarring to still come across such reports today.
Despite the fact that 82% of buyers say they trust a company more when its CEO and senior leadership team are active in social media, and 77% are more likely to buy from a company if its CEO uses social media (those stats themselves nearly two years old), “64% of CEOs do not use social media at all, with only 5% of all Fortune 500 company CEOs on Twitter,” according to The Guardian.
Worse, C-level executives who don’t use social media themselves are also much less likely to understand how to capitalize on the social media savvy and reach of their employees to benefit their companies. And those benefits can be considerable. Per recent research from GaggleAMP:
“Connecting your business with your employees in social media can boost your social media presence. Employee advocacy not only has the ability to acquire new leads, but also can help create original content and bump your search rankings on Google, Yahoo, and MSN…Prospective clients are more likely to recognize your brand when you’ve got a network of employee advocates helping to sell your product through social media. This can cut down on the time it takes to gain the trust of clients as well as help solidify the relationship more quickly.”
Expanding a company’s social presence through its employees’ networks requires some give and take. Employee participation must be voluntary. Employers will need to do some level of monitoring, in order to measure results, share best practices, and incentive employees for social amplification.
That monitoring activity needn’t be excessive or intrusive; it should be limited to work-related social media activities, and social networks on which employees are active on the company’s behalf (an individual employee may, for example, choose to use his or her Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to promote company content and interact with customers and prospects, but use Facebook strictly for personal relationships).
Yet too many companies, regardless of their progress as social businesses, already take or plan to take this monitoring to excessive, even downright creepy, levels. Per per research from PricewaterhouseCoopers:
“More employers plan to begin or increase their monitoring of employees’ social media use and other personal data over the next decade…the idea is frankly kind of Orwellian in that terrifying corporate kind of way: The data profiling that drives customer management will increasingly be replicated among employees as screening and monitoring move to a new level. Sensors check their location, performance and health. The monitoring may even stretch into their private lives in an extension of today’s drug tests. Periodic health screening gives way to real-time monitoring of health.”
Of course, employees need to actually be engaging in social media activities on a company’s behalf in order for their to be any social activity to monitor. Nearly as disturbing as excessive monitoring, more than a third (36%) of businesses block social networks completely within the office, and more than half (57%) permit workplace social media access only for select employees (e.g., marketing and HR).
The fundamental barrier to embracing a social business strategy seems to come down to one word: fear.
- • Fear of bad, or even unmeasurable, results. While precise social media ROI may or may not be measurable, many indicators of success certainly are. Social media amplification is like any other business process: test, measure, improve, repeat.
- • Fear that employees will waste time on social sites. Employees have been finding ways to distract themselves, and others, and generally waste time at work, for pretty much as long as groups of human beings have worked together. Employees intentionally wasting work time are a sign of poor hiring, poor motivation, and/or poor management. Those determined to waste work time will do so regardless of social media policy.
- • Fear that employees will be unproductive. This is different than the point above; it’s not fear that employees will purposely waste time, but rather that employees, with the best of intentions, will use social networks inefficiently. Monitoring, measurement, and training are the answer.
- • Fear that employees will say the wrong things. They’ll get brand messages wrong, or argue with customers, or reveal trade secrets, or disclose sensitive financial information, or bash competitors, or bash management, or tweet while drunk, or say something racist or sexist, or…whatever. Actually, in a healthy work environment, employees are far more likely to appreciate trust than to abuse it. And, backed up with training and clear policies, they deserve it.
Most fundamentally of all, however, is the fear that a surprising majority of companies still seem to have in acknowledging that they are staffed by actual people. Try this experiment: pick 10 business websites, from companies of any size, pretty much any industry. See if you can find a way to directly contact a specific individual (e.g., the head of marketing, the top HR exec, anyone in customer service, the webmaster, the VP of sales, even the CEO) at any of those companies, through information presented on the company’s website.
Many sites won’t list any individual employee or management names at all. Some will have “management team” pages that list a handful of top executives (though not with any direct contact information). Most will not provide any email addresses beyond the generic “info@” or “sales@” variety. Many will link to the company’s social media accounts—but not to the accounts of any individual employee, even if used strictly for business purposes. In some cases, you’ll be able to find contact information for the individual in charge of public relations—but often as not, this will be someone from an outside agency rather than a company employee.
That may be the most fundamental fear of all: being social means being human. That is what needs to change, first and foremost. As social media guru Ted Rubin notes, “A smart brand supports its employees in building their personal brands because it expands their reach right along with that of their employees.”
How do executives who want to overcome these fears and embrace social media start? Search for guidance and resources online, watch videos like this one, read books like The Social Employee by Cheryl and Mark Burgess (a veritable field guide to social business best practices, based on case studies of brand-name social enterprises), and begin by getting employees involved with the business socially internally, using tools like Yammer or Chatter.
But whatever you do, start. With regard to social business, the only rational fear top executives should have is fear of being left behind.
One of the most powerful impacts of social media is the way it has democratized brands. No longer is the brand, or corporate image, tightly controlled by a few senior executives, marketing communications specialists, and PR spokespersons. Every stakeholder in an enterprise—every customer, prospective customer, supplier, channel partner, employee, industry blogger, shareholder—has a voice. Those voices collectively shape the brand.
This reality can be scary as hell for brands, but it also creates new opportunities. Treating customers well produces an army of advocates, with far greater credibility and at far lower cost than traditional advertising. Invite bloggers to your company events, give them a peak “under the hood,” and the collective “media coverage” generated can be tremendous.
The most natural and knowledgeable group of brand ambassadors would seem though to be employees. They know the company’s products, people, policies and procedures from the inside. They (presumably) want the company to do well, as their livelihoods depend on its success. Those on the front lines, in areas like consulting and customer support, have a unique perspective and level of credibility. And collectively, particularly in large organizations, they can be a powerful amplifier of brand messages and values.
Yet companies big and small have struggled to capitalize on this potential. Asking employees to use social platforms on a brand’s behalf can easily feel awkward, or forced. Employees may not want to talk about the company on social media, or may not know how, or may want to expose too much, or may even use it in ways that damage the brand.
Of course, most organizations of any size now have social media policies in place; but these often only set the basic ground rules for discussing the company in social media (e.g., don’t discuss financial details, don’t disclose customer data, don’t talk about products in development). They don’t turn employees into effective and impactful brand advocates any more than merely knowing the traffic laws makes one an expert driver.
Into this milieu have stepped Cheryl and Mark Burgess with their book, The Social Employee: Success Lessons from IBM, AT&T, Dell, and Cisco on Building a Social Culture. A must-read for any executive or manager who wants to understand how to unleash the social power of a properly trained, motivated and incentivized workforce, this book goes far beyond the do’s and don’ts of social media policy. The authors have gone inside some of the most respected brands to discover and reveal how these companies have made social media work by enabling and empowering their employees.
In today’s social online world, the linear model of brand engagement (awareness, interest, desire, action) is obsolete. Rather than being the end goal, the sale is often the beginning of the true relationship between customers and brands. It isn’t just the product that matters, but the entire customer experience with the product, with post-sale support, even with a company’s values, that shape the brand image in the social realm.
To introduce their concept of a non-linear model of customer engagement, the authors invoke the image of a Möbius strip: a geometric shape that is “somewhat unique in the physical world. While the Möbius strip appears to be a closed band like a bracelet, because of a twist in the band itself the object technically has only one side—although it appears to have two…
“We like the metaphor implied in this famous mathematical conundrum: here is an object that is easy to understand by experiencing it, but incredibly difficult to produce through attempts to quantify it. Such a riddle creates an unmistakable parallel with the nature of social employee engagement. Any brand can see the value of social of social collaboration once they’ve jumped into the fray, but it’s much more challenging to try to define the precise formula for why it works…Each of us behaves as an employee, brand, and customer—sometimes simultaneously—throughout the course of a single day.”
Later in the book’s opening section, the authors quote a McKinsey Quarterly article which argues that “senior leaders can harness social media to shape consumer decision making in a predictable way…(social media) is much more than simply another form of paid marketing, and it demands more too: a clear framework to help CEOs and other top executives evaluate investments in it, a plan for building support infrastructure, and performance management systems to help leaders smartly scale their social presence. Companies that have these three elements in place can create critical new brand assets (such as content from customers or insights from their feedback), open up new channels for interactions (Twitter-based customer service, Facebook news feeds), and completely reposition a brand through the way its employees interact with customers or other parties.”
Social media is fundamentally changing the nature of marketing, and employees are crucial to successfully navigating this transition. In the sections titled Employees Already Own Your Brand and Marketing is Everyone’s Job, the authors contend that “strong Business-to-Business (B2) or Business-to-Consumer (B2C) communication outside of the brand’s walls begins with strong internal employee collaboration…Because of the many new demands that social media has created for internal organization as well as B2B and B2C interactions, brands are quickly coming to the realization that the act of marketing is no longer just the responsibility of the marketing department…This isn’t to say that each member of each department has to be on the frontlines of branding, just that everybody should have a role in spreading the brand’s message.
“The only thing preventing organizations from connecting employees with the necessary information and resources to drive real change is the willingness to develop a proper infrastructure…Many companies simply don’t know how to handle the changes in the work styles and attitudes that are emerging within the workforce.”
And that is what sets up the core of this book: lessons the authors share from seven leading companies in how to harness the power of social employees. Among them:
- • IBM: let employees develop the company’s social media guidelines. “In trying to determine the best way to address questions regarding the proper protocols of a social business, IBM struck on a novel idea: rather than confining a small group of people to a conference room to hammer out social policy, why not take the question to the people? IBM quickly set up an open wiki accessible to the entire network that would allow IBMers to establish their own computing guidelines…The results of the wiki experiment were quickly adapted as the company’s official social media guidelines. According to (IBM executive Ethan) McCarty, everything is still holding up quite well. ‘IBMers treat it like their Magna Carta’…The guidelines, which McCarty affectionately refers to as IBM’s social media Woodstock, have become so renowned in the business world that hundreds of other organizations have contacted IBM seeking permission to adopt them as their own.”
- • Adobe: promote social media policies and best practices as “guardrails” for employees, not straightjackets. Adobe’s Corporate Social Media team knows it can’t control or dictate every social media interaction, so it has instead “adopted a policy of `influence without authority’ in order to spread the brand’s social message…Larger brands simply don’t have the resources to micromanage social adoption practices for an entire enterprise. `We had little to no authority over (other internal) teams to mandate change,” (Senior Director of Social Media and Public Relations Maria) Poveromo said. ‘So instead, we had to learn ways to encourage these stakeholders to see the value of working together.'”
- • Dell: use tools and structure to monitor and address the torrent of social media activity happening outside the brand’s direct sphere of influence. “Listening to over 25,000 conversations daily produced a wealth of data, but the brand has had to be creative in how it sorts and utilizes this information. In 2010, Dell established the Social Media Listening Command Center (SMLCC) Led by Maribel Sierra. The brand has since designed over 300 monitoring categories in order to aggregate information by product line, customer segments, and various business functions. The SMLCC is able to sort data by criteria such as location/geography, basic demographics, reach, sentiment, subject matter, and social platform. To accomplish this kind of sorting, the SMLCC team uses Saleforce’s Radian6 technology to assess and report on the trending social media topics related to Dell.”
There’s much more, from Cisco (representing leader authentically builds tremendous credibility); Southwest Airlines (founder Herb Kelleher: “If the employee comes first, then they’re happy…A motivated employee treats the customer well”); AT&T (use social media to humanize the brand: “A fundamental trait of the social age is the fact that people expect information to come from a trusted resource with a human face”); and Acxiom (create a social employee “PACT”—short for passion, accountability, creativity and teamwork).
While the book showcases examples and practices from large organizations, many of the lessons are applicable to companies of any size—such as the importance of executive involvement on social platforms on behalf of the brand.
I’m thrilled and honored to have worked with Cheryl Burgess for the past three years honoring the #Nifty50 top women and men on Twitter. Cheryl and Mark have written an outstanding book for any leader seeking a roadmap to building and optimizing employee engagement on behalf of the brand in social media. As legendary management guru Tom Peters said of the book, “Social media is wasted without social employees…my social business favorite books #1: The Social Employee.”
By Cheryl Burgess, originally published on the Blue Focus Marketing Blog
In 2011, I teamed up with Tom Pick (@TomPick) and his Webbiquity blog to unveil the first annual #Nifty50 Awards. Our goal in designing these awards was to honor the top 50 women and top 50 men in social media. In that first year, we cast a wide net, honoring those whom we felt actively engaged as brand ambassadors on Twitter day in day out, exchanging valuable information, and just generally being good, helpful people. Last year, we narrowed our focus to honor the top 50 men and top 50 women engaging on Twitter on behalf of the tech sector.
This year, we wanted to target a specific group once again, and so we agreed to honor the top bloggers, authors, PR specialists, and journalists on Twitter. After reviewing all of your wonderful nominations over the summer, it’s now time to unveil the winners!
Now that Tom and I have compiled our lists, the word that keeps popping into my head is “community.” This isn’t just a list of 50 men who work in isolation; these are people who share strong social bonds with each other, who would be just as happy to celebrate the success of one of their colleagues as they would be for themselves. These thought leaders understand that the greatest product of a good idea is more good ideas, and it’s great to see that their generosity and thought leadership in online communities is being recognized.
I’m happy to say that I have had the privilege of experiencing this generosity firsthand. As we were writing our book The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work – Success Lessons from IBM, AT&T, Dell, Cisco, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, and Domo on building a Social Culture (McGraw-Hill, August 2013) (@SocialEmployee) late last year and early this year, we were honored to receive excellent contributions from people like Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar), David Armano, (@Armano) David C. Edelman (@DavidEdelman), and Kevin Randall (@kevinbrandall) —just to name a few. These wonderful wordsmiths truly enlivened our own content, and we couldn’t be happier to see them make this list.
So without further ado, here are the 2013 #Nifty50 Men! Feel free to celebrate their achievement by dropping them a line on Twitter, and don’t forget to check out the Webbiquity blog for the 2013 #Nifty50 Women!
Vala Afshar @ValaAfshar
David Armano @armano
Jonathan Becher @jbecher
Sander Biehn @sanderbiehn
Michael Brenner @BrennerMichael
David Brier @davidbrier
Michael Brito @Britopian
Terry Brock @TerryBrock
Mark Burgess @mnburgess
Chris Carragher @cjcarragher
Dan Cristo @dancristo
Dino Dogan @dinodogan
Mike Edelhart @MikeEdelhart
David Edelman @davidedelman
Mark Fidelman @markfidelman
Sam Fiorella @samfiorella
Jez Frampton @jezframpton
Nis Frome @nisfrome
Sean Gardner @2morrowknight
Glen Gilmore @GlenGilmore
Andrew Grill @AndrewGrill
John Hagel @jhagel
Arik Hanson @arikhanson
Kent Huffman @KentHuffman
John L. Kennedy @johnlkennedy
Jure Klepic @jkcallas
Bryan Kramer @bryankramer
Simon Mainwaring @simonmainwaring
Billy Mitchell @billymitchell1
Jacob Morgan @jacobm
Tom Peters @tom_peters
Howard Pyle @howardpyle
Erik Qualman @equalman
Ajay Ramachandran @ajay
Andreas Ramos @Andreas_Ramos
Kevin Randall @KevinBrandall
Ron Ricci @RonRicciCisco
Tony Riches @tonyriches
Alex Romanovich @alexromanovich
Ted Rubin @TedRubin
Neal Schaffer @NealSchaffer
Dan Schawbel @DanSchawbel
Gary Schirr @ProfessorGary
Brian Slattery @BrianSlatts
Andy Smith @kabbenbock
Brian Solis @briansolis
Bill Strawderman @marketingbard
Todd Wilms @toddmwilms
Tony Zambito @TonyZambito
Cheryl Burgess (@ckburgess) CEO and CMO of Blue Focus Marketing, author of The Social Employee – How Great Companies Make Social Media Work, published by McGraw-Hill, in summer 2013. She is a social branding consultant with expertise in social business and social media. She is an expert blogger for AT&T Networking Exchange on social media. Proud to be an invited contributor to the Wharton FOA’s Advertising 2020 Project. Active Member of the Wharton Advertising 2020 Contributor Community.
She was awarded Wharton Future of Advertising’s MVP and praised as a “brilliant strategic thinker in the social media space.” Huffington Post honored her as one of 40 global women “Passionistas” for her “great business expertise and timeless blog posts.” Also, Huffington Post “Top 100 Business, Leadership and Technology Twitter Accounts You Must Follow.”
She was featured in Fast Company and Business Insider. Invited speaker on “Expanding Your Social Influence” at the AT&T Networking Leaders Academy Annual Conference. She is a four-time winner of the Twitter Shorty Award in Marketing [The New York Times hails this as the Oscar of Twitter], named Top 75 Twitter Women, 2012 Top 100 Branding Experts on Twitter, and a 100 Top Marketer on Twitter. Cheryl is a syndicated blogger. She is the co-founder of #Nifty50 Top Twitter Women and #Nifty50 Top Twitter Men. Google+
In an era of increasingly transparent pricing, interchangeable products, and uniformly adequate service, the only remaining differentiator may be the “soul” of a company: is your organization the type of enterprise that people want to do business with? What do you stand for? How do you treat your people (which in turn determines how they will treat your customers)?
That “soul” is transparent as well. It’s reflected in the myriad social interactions an organizations employees have online. Employees who are empowered, energized and inspired by their organization’s mission and culture will paint a far different overall web presence than those who are micromanaged, disrespected and treated as headcount.
In the social age, the image of a company is no longer controlled by a charismatic CEO, clever advertising, or carefully choreographed media relations. It’s determined collectively by the firm’s customers and employees.
Such a collective effort can’t be tightly controlled. But it can be nurtured and encouraged. And the roadmap for this journey is laid out in a new book from #Nifty50 co-creator Cheryl Burgess and her partner Mark Burgess (soon to be released and available for pre-order now on Amazon), The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work.
Enterprises that embrace the concept of The Social Employee will be well positioned to thrive in the coming decade. Those that ignore this phenomenon do so at their own peril.