THE BLOG
05/06/2013 04:45 pm ET | Updated Jul 06, 2013

Does Your Company Need a Chief Social Officer?

In our most recent CXOTalk video series, Michael Krigsman and I had the good fortune to speak to Mark Fidelman, the Managing Director and CEO at Evolve! Mark is also a columnist and contributor at Forbes.com focusing on mobile and social technologies, and the author of "SOCIALIZED! The Adaptive Enterprise". Fidelman researched over 150 business executives to better understand the science of influence and building an adaptive, social business.

In Fideman's new book, he warns businesses to adapt to the connected, engaged world or die. Fidelman said that if companies are not adapting to the mobile and social world, then they will be disrupted and ultimately irrelevant. Fidelman believes that success starts with company culture. He noted that command and control is no longer a sustainable business strategy.

Fidelman defines business success using the acronym C.A.S.T. -- culture, analytics, social media, and technology. Culture of empowerment is key to success. Analytics requires a discipline of data mining and converting data to insight. Social media can help scale the voice of the brand. And lastly technology is key to bolster execution velocity. The key to success depends on your company's objectives. Fidelman suggests that business executives A/B test their message and vision. The point is to listen to market response to your objectives in order to refine and iterate to a compelling product. Ultimately, data must provide insight that can accelerate decisions and actions to delight customers.

"Ultimately if you are the only one talking, what are you learning?" said Fidelman. Listening is an important element of learning and becoming and adaptive and connected organization. We discussed the social maturity levels of companies that clearly demonstrate full organizational buy-in, and active engagements, to extensive investments to support collaboration including social media command centers. Fidelman named companies like Salesforce and IBM as examples of companies that have demonstrated mature and robust social transformations.

Accordingly to Fidelman, the importance of executive collaboration is the ability to received unfiltered, unbiased feedback from all levels of the organization. The visibility in the seams of the organizational fabric is the benefit of transparency and culture of collaboration. Internal social collaboration is as important as external social collaboration, said Fidelman. Fidelman also said that the job of the CXO is to communicate the value of the organization both internally and externally. In summary, companies are not logos. People buy from people, and when you can personalize the business, you improve trust and ultimately influence.

We also discussed the importance of culture and effectiveness of gamification practices in business. My definition of culture is what happens when the managers leave the room -- doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons in the absence of authority. Fidelman noted that he does not believe that gamification works in the long run. He noted that n the short-term we can incentivize and personalize the desired behavior. Fidelman sited Dr. Wu's research at Lithium regarding studies that point to the long-term benefit of gamification in business. I challenged the notion with the concept of balanced performance scorecards as a form of gaming technique that does work, as long as it changes over time and is more of an adaptive approach performance management. Fidelman said he also agrees that balanced performance scorecards are an effective method of sustaining high performance because they do change over time.

Fidelman named companies that are leading the social transformation practices, starting with IBM. We were all impressed with the size and scale of IBM's social ecosystem, including their 40,000 content creators and bloggers. Fidelman noted that there has to be a balance of thought leadership content versus marketing and vendor specific content.

Can the CIO lead the social transformation revolution in business? Do businesses need an executive level social champion? Fidelman noted Oliver Bussmann, former CIO of SAP, as a social business champion. Fidelman covered the top social CIOs in Forbes. I mentioned Kim Stevenson as another example of a brilliant social CIO, leading the information technology function at Intel. Fidelman believes companies need a chief social evangelist. The chief social officer (CSO) would understand and lead the adoption of new social technologies, engagement practices, and company-wide internal and external collaboration initiatives. Fidelman believes that a designated person with this responsibility is important for businesses today. Fidelman's research on Forbes recently measured the engagement levels of the top 70 brands, noting that companies can do a better job of engaging with the market. I also believe that companies must have a social champion, but I believe this person can be the CMO or other existing traditional functions like CIO or CEO. For bigger companies, I agree with Fidelman -- a social strategist is an important role. We both noted that Sandy Carter of IBM and Scott Monty of Ford.

I encourage you to watch our video interview with Mark Fidelman for his excellent insights and guidance.