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We're Halfway Thru 2013 and Here's the Latest on Social Business

Beverly Macy   |   July 16, 2013    4:17 PM ET

Big data, mobile, social -- all in the cloud. That's been the big buzz for the last year or so. Social Business is the next big thing -- the Six Sigma of our time. Everyone's on board -- from IBM to Oracle to Cisco to to Igloo Software... everyone's got a horse in the race.

Here's where we are:

Social business should be thought of in two ways:
1. External facing social business would include Corporate Communications, Customer Relationship Management, Public Relations, Marketing Communications, Branding, Reputation Management.
2. Internal facing social business would include all the high performance, collaborative and knowledge management processes that are traditionally found on the corporate Intranet.

The Social Intranet is probably what's getting the most focus now because of the spectacular failure of the traditional intranet to fulfill its promise. This is where the social platforms and the ability to share and search really shine.

The social intranet accomplishes what wasn't possible before. It consolidates activity and conversation threads -- in real-time -- across multiple tools. Dan Latendre, CEO of IglooSoftware, says a good web-based collaborative social business needs to energize and open the dialogue. He keeps his company focused on what he calls the 3 C's - 1) Content; 2) Collaboration; and 3) Communication. That just about sums it up.

Clearly, social business offers a high level of engagement externally and internally. Getting everyone tuned in and better-informed should help companies break down silos and make it easier for employees and customers to connect and share insights.

Sounds great. But my concern is that there is still an uneven understanding within the enterprise about just what social media is and what it does -- especially in the boardroom. Innovation, collaboration, engagement -- all good goals. My advice is to spend the next 6 months ensuring everyone has a social education... then the real benefits can kick in in 2014.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit LLC and the host of Social Media Radio. She teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing at UCLA Extension and speaks extensively on the subject of disruptive technology and social business. Email her at

Social Media and the Mature Organization: An Interview With Ed Brill

Phil Simon   |   March 8, 2013    5:33 PM ET

I recently spoke about Big Data at IBM PartnerWorld in Las Vegas. At the conference, I finally had a chance to meet Ed Brill, author of the new book Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager. Ed and I sat down to talk a bit about the book and the transformation taking place at IBM.

There are a zillion books out on social media. What makes Opting In different?
Most of the books on social media today are written by marketers or consultants, and they either focus on tools or outbound communication. The impetus to write Opting In was a belief that those running a business, such as product or brand managers, would be more inclined to read about social business, the process of connecting people with people and people with information. Thus the book is mostly about who, why, and where to engage in a conversation with the marketplace, rather than the what and how of most of the books out there today.

So is the book just for product managers?

No. Jonathan Levitt, the CMO of OpinionLab, said in his review of the book that "anyone in business today" would benefit from reading Opting In. The book speaks to the notion of a social product manager, but the lessons learned -- included in every chapter -- are broadly applicable to business leaders across an organization. I tried to make the book a narrative, more of a case study than a how-to guide, where the reader can envision themselves in similar situations and consider what the right approach would be. Chapters about how much of yourself to include in your online persona, when to go on offense or defense, and how to inflect your social presence into real life are applicable to line of business leaders throughout a company.

What is the perception of IBM and social media today?
IBM has transformed over the last six or seven years into a culture of participation. We have one of the largest presences on LinkedIn and Twitter, and IBMers continue to explore the leading edge of both inbound and outbound usage of social media. More importantly, we have recognized the importance of social business as a tool to reach clients and potential buyers. Our research has found that people who visit as a result of a referral from a blog or tweet or other curated content are more likely to convert into participating in an offer from our website than if they just came to directly. That is a direct reflection of the authentic voice used established by IBMers and our communities.

What are some examples of where IBM has implemented best-in-class use of social tools?
In Opting In , I describe a few cases where I think we are really doing things right. One is our social computing guidelines, which were first written -- using a wiki and individuals from all over IBM -- in 2005, and have only been revised twice. Those are published publicly on as an example for other organizations. Another is our Champion program, which recognizes and rewards customers and partners who are strong advocates for our products. A third is how our inside sales team is demonstrating measurably better results by using social tools, from generating more leads to closing more business. That ROI is the holy grail that social media advocates are always asking for, and we have proven it through academic study of our salespeople's' effectiveness.

It's Time for Businesses to Get Socialized

Jure Klepic   |   December 13, 2012    2:54 PM ET

The flood of evidence continues building the case for a paradigm shift in communication from mass marketing to personal marketing, from traditional media outlets to social media communication strategies. In the very near future, more corporations will be forced to make the change to becoming "social businesses" both internally and externally. Those that don't make this transition may find themselves lagging behind their adaptive competitors.

The sheer volume of users in the social media universe makes it hard to ignore. Each day hoards of consumers and businesses turn to Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets for their communications fix. The venerable IBM, which ushered in the original computer age, now agrees that social is changing the way people connect and the way organizations succeed. Their website includes results from a 2010 McKinsey Global Survey which found that 9 out of 10 companies reported some element of measurable benefits from social business.

Becoming a social business involves engaging, sharing and collaborating with all of a company's stakeholders including employees, customers, prospects, management and investors. The goal is to efficiently utilize social processes to become more adaptive to changing times and more responsive to input. Instead of transmitting information in a controlled one-to-one manner, social allows for almost immediate communication to massive audiences.

In fact the question should no longer be why do we need to become more social, but why aren't we all becoming more social? Very few companies are taking an active role in becoming a social business, with most of them adopting a wait and see approach. This reluctance to jump in may come right from the corporate suite where CEOs at major corporations are participating in social media channels at significantly lower rates than the general public, according to a new study sponsored by Domo and Making matters worse are the results from an IBM survey entitled "From Stretched to Strengthened" which found that an astonishing 71 percent of CMOs feel unprepared for today's market challenges!

These companies are still going by the old marketing playbook and have not yet reached a tipping point where they feel they absolutely need to change to remain competitive. Some of them do have younger marketers coming up through the ranks who are more prepared to handle today's communication challenges, but these laggards need to be aware that other companies are already way out in front of them.

Some companies that are beginning to dip their feet into the social waters are using the same tired tools to develop their strategies. They are still trying to push information at consumers instead of working to engage and draw them in, or they are confusing popularity with influence in their efforts to find online outlets to help spread their message.

What these companies need is a new playbook for the social world. Fortunately one has just been released, Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social by Mark Fidelman. Mark believes that being social is not a one-time campaign but a year-round ingrained corporate strategy to keep in touch through social at all times. His game plan helps leaders gain the competitive advantage by combining social technologies with internal culture shifts. Insisting that being social is not merely a social presence but a willingness to engage and communicate, Fidelman provides tools to help marketers understand consumers and show them how to build communities in this brave new digital world. More of a textbook than just a book, Socialized! teaches marketers how to abandon the mass media mentality and embrace the social business model.

This Is Not a Bubble -- It's a Wave, and You're Not on It

Beverly Macy   |   May 28, 2012    8:22 PM ET

In surfing, it's the 'tube' ride or 'cracking the barrel' that creates heroes. There's an aura around those who've mastered this skill and they say that words fail to describe the magnificence of the ocean and the ride.

In fact, tube riding is a super-advanced skill, and most surfers spend their lifetimes surfing without ever getting "tubed" (the term used for being inside the barrel of the wave).

Conditions have to be absolutely perfect for the wave to create the tube and for the surfer to be inside it.

I think about this when I read about the Facebook/social media bubble. Those busy wringing their hands are missing the point entirely. This is not a bubble. This is a wave, and if your company doesn't know that yet, then you're already missing the ride.

Business has changed. Communication has changed. The social-mobile-local-cloud (SoLoMoClo) is producing multi-billion dollar ecosystems that are changing how we communicate, collaborate, compensate, and coordinate resources and information.

Companies are leveraging the social business graph of their employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders to revolutionize how business is done. Security is also burgeoning with disruptive innovation as the value chain goes to the cloud.

This SoLoMoCLo business wave holds as much awesome power and strength of the Banzai Pipeline and is set to change the game forever. This is not an overstatement. And according to Wikipedia, "The extreme challenge posed to even the best athletes when Pipeline is breaking at full size cannot be overstated. Numerous surfers and photographers have been killed at Pipe... "

That's the task facing businesses today -- either you're on the wave or you're not. Think of the rich rewards for companies who can harness these new ecosystems and produce intelligence from sheer volume of real-time engagements swirling around the globe. IBM did, and they've launched a Social Business division. That in itself is telling -- IBM seldom makes 'risky' investments.

Piercing that cloud of global consumer velocity, sentiment, and connections will ultimately enable business visionaries to change education, healthcare, government, supply-chain management, payments systems, entertainment, advertising, and more.

Is your company nurturing theses 'tube riders' -- the next generation of super-skilled business ninjas? Or are you snickering about the 'bubble' and hoping everything goes 'back to normal'?

It's your choice. I hear Big Wave wipeouts are no fun -- even deadly.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit LLC and the Co-Author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing. She consults with Fortune 500 executives on social media and social business and teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension Email her at

By JORDAN ROBERTSON   |   October 25, 2011    5:13 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO -- IBM Corp. ushered in the first female CEO in the company's 100-year history on Tuesday.

Virginia "Ginni" Rometty, a veteran at the technology giant famous for its conservative corporate culture, will take over as CEO from Sam Palmisano, IBM announced.

It's Time for a New Model for Our Schools

Stanley S. Litow   |   September 12, 2011    2:53 PM ET

An August 2011 study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce confirms what teachers, parents, and public and private sector leaders have known for years: A postsecondary education is now the gateway to the middle class. The Georgetown study indicates that the lifetime earnings for people with bachelor's degrees are 84 percent greater than those with only a high school diploma -- whose lifetime earnings translate to just over $15/hour.

For the undereducated -- those who have been left behind in the race between technology and education which has fueled global economic growth since World War II -- today's employment and earnings statistics are beyond dire. In a third-quarter 2011 study, The Milken Institute reports that "the median earnings of all men ... with less than a high school education ... have declined by 66 percent [not a misprint]," and that members of this group have experienced a "23 percentage point decline in the probability of having any labor-market earnings [emphasis added]."

In Brooklyn, N.Y., teacher Tanya Spence (right), Principal Rashid Ferrod Davis (left) and IBM Citizenship Vice President Stanley Litow prepare for a class at Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), a new type of school sponsored by IBM that helps students attain the skills for careers in the technology industry. (Bob Goldberg/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

Thomas L. Friedman writes in The New York Times that "globalization and the information technology revolution have gone to a whole new level," so that "to get into the middle class now, you have to study harder, work smarter and adapt quicker than ever before." Many good jobs still exist, Friedman observes, but they require "more education or technical skills." Friedman's conclusion: We have a skills problem, not a jobs problem.

By 2018, according to the Georgetown study, 63 percent of American jobs will require some form of post-secondary education or training. Today, even though more than half of U.S. companies say they can't find qualified employees, only 41 percent of all Americans hold a college degree (the U.S. ranks 10th on this measure), and a mere 30 percent of young adults finish their Bachelor's. Our young people are getting the message about the need for advanced education and training, but they're not getting the preparation and support they require.

For the overwhelming percentage of American high school graduates who seek to improve their lot by pursuing advanced learning in our community colleges, the actual graduation rates from associate's degree programs represent a stunning disappointment. In some cities, as many as 93 percent of community college students fail to graduate even after spending six years in pursuit of a two-year degree. And for students needing remedial science and math education, the dropout rate by the end of the first semester at some institutions is a mind-blowing 99 percent. Clearly, the bar has been raised. But our school systems are failing to prepare our children either for immediate employment in growth fields where they can build long-lasting careers, or for post-secondary educational success. The system is broken, and the time for a new education model isn't next year or even next week. It's now.

The only way to close the skills gap and give our children a meaningful opportunity for future prosperity is for all of us to work together and work smarter. Education is no longer just a "schools" problem, and collaboration and commitment from parents, teachers, students, and the community -- including the private sector -- is essential to turning things around.

In Crown Heights Brooklyn, an innovative new partnership among the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York, the New York College of Technology, and IBM promises to deliver education, training, and real-world job skills to young people hungry for the chance to participate in the economy and contribute to society. It's called the Pathways in Technology School, or P-TECH for short.

P-TECH is a STEM Pathway grade 9 through 14 school that will provide its students with a seamless, rigorous and relevant six-year science and technology education leading to both a high school diploma and an Associate's degree in Applied Science (AAS) in Computer Systems Technology or Electromechanical Engineering Technology. Corporate mentors assigned to each student, teacher, and P-TECH's principal will help enrich the curriculum with real-world learning -- including the in-depth content knowledge and core employability skills that make P-TECH graduates ready for tomorrow's jobs or further education without the need for remedial work.

Many of the students in P-TECH's inaugural class of 130 ninth graders will be the first in their families to attain a post-secondary degree. In a market where the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the creation of 14 million new jobs over the next 10 years for holders of two-year degrees in such areas as computer science, P-TECH graduates will be first in line for entry-level careers at IBM and with other leading high-technology companies -- ready to begin and grow their careers without the burden of student loan debt.

To address the crises facing our educational system, and our lack of qualified applicants for tomorrow's good-paying technology jobs, the P-TECH model must extend beyond just one school, one neighborhood, or one city. All too often, our nation's school systems have tolerated wide-ranging mediocrity while championing a small number of successful schools. P-TECH has the potential to break that pattern of complacency and stand as a repeatable model for STEM Pathway schools anywhere that the public and private sectors are willing to collaborate to provide their children with the 21st century education to meet the world's need for skills. P-TECH has no special admissions criteria, and does not break school system budgets. And with mayors from around the country clamoring for their own STEM Pathway schools, the future of targeted education through the contributions of parents, teachers, students, and civic and corporate leadership looks bright.