Just before Christmas, Simon te Brinke from Gramercy Park Consulting joined us on Episode 14 of the Brand Newsroom podcast to talk about social business. He’s recently published The Little Book of Social Business, a concise guide packed with insight into how organisations should be approaching social business.

The tiny book fits comfortably into a lanyard pouch but the information contained inside is powerful. I particularly liked the overarching message that everything ‘social’ must be attached to business objectives. Simon says specifically,

“A successful social business strategy requires goals aligned with business objectives. It requires a succinct vision with senior executive support. It requires a detailed strategic roadmap with solid governance and guidelines. Plus an organisation will need the financial and human resources support for technology investments and social business initiatives.”

I didn’t know whether to let out a whoop of joy or weep with relief. For too long companies have been dabbling in social business without any real idea about what it can achieve for them. In one short paragraph, Simon outlines the structure for social business. Let’s break it down.

1) Strategy required

“A successful social business strategy requires goals aligned with business objectives.

Years of research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) reveal two predictors for content marketing effectiveness. In North America, Europe and Australia, companies that have a documented strategy and follow that strategy are going to be more effective than those who don’t.

Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer at CMI, made an interesting point about the importance of having a formal plan when he said, “Not every company will have a content marketing strategy, but every successful company will.”

While content marketing is just one area of social business, it’s hard to believe the findings in this research don’t apply to every aspect of social business including sales, social media, collaboration and partnerships, customer support, and innovation programs.

2)  Executive support is crucial

“It requires a succinct vision with senior executive support.”

It’s not hard to get marketers excited about social business. We’ve seen far too many examples of companies smashing it. But the C-Suite has been slow to recognise the impact social and content can have on the business. Frankly, marketers haven’t done a good job making a business case for it, either.  We haven’t educated the C-Suite that social business is a long-play activity. We’ve relied on vanity metrics and exerted frenetic activity attached to, well, nothing.  Plenty of senior managers and budgets holders have concluded social business is a money pit.

Worse, according to a recent report from The Economist Group, global business executives are seeking substance from content while marketers are largely marketing. Not only have we not convinced upper management they should invest more in social business, we’re not even creating the kind of content they want to see to help them make decisions.

3) Governance must be addressed

“It requires a detailed strategic roadmap with solid governance and guidelines.”

One problem with taking a dabble approach to social business is it leaves you exposed to a myriad of risks. It’s essential to develop firm guidelines on how and what you’re going to communicate, how you’ll manage risks, the personal responsibilities of each person involved and a pre-approved action plan for handling the inevitable problems that arise. People working exclusively in social media are beginning to get a handle on this, but this discipline needs to extend into all facets of your social business.

4) It’s not free; it’s not even cheap

Plus an organisation will need the financial and  human resources support for technology investments and social business initiatives.”

In the early days of social business, we were easily convinced it was all free. Products like Skype, Google Hangouts, the defunct Google Wave, and Apple’s FaceTime cost nothing. Cloud-based services like Dropbox and SoundCloud are often free for small users but start to charge when usage increases. Likewise, email marketing platforms don’t start charging until a significant number of addresses are added to an account.

Social media tools are nearly always free with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ providing accounts for no fee. Social business requires significant investment in both staffing and budgets. As marketing becomes more dependent on technology, marketing departments are beginning to rival IT for technology spending. Organisations don’t just need more staff to support social business, they need staff with different skills. In the first instance, they need someone who can manage all this new technology and figure out how to stitch it together in their organisation. If their business moves into content marketing, they need to provide budget for continual publishing – editors, writers, designers, producers and all manners of content production.

Simon’s opinion is we’re in the early stages of how social business can and will impact organisations. It’s an exciting time and it can be an incredibly profitable time for those who take a step back and think through a strategy. Social business had an early impact on marketing and communications but, according to Simon, organisations both large and small are seeing significant benefit through the use of social technologies - both inside and outside the organisation.

Check out Simon’s book on Slideshare here :


If you’d like more information on social business, make sure to listen to Simon te Brinke on Episode 14 of the Brand Newsroom podcast. It’s also available on iTunes or SoundCloud.  And if you need help with a strategy, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

- by Sarah Mitchell