Infographic: State of Social Business 2013 and Outlook for 2014

Living 2013This past year has been a busy one for me and Brian Solis on the research front. We’ve published the following:

Brian and I recently introduced an infographic that summarizes high level findings across all of our work in 2013 (scroll down to see it below). And the key finding is that while organizers are making significant headway in terms of building out their social efforts, they are far from realizing real business value.

My outook for 2014 is that many more organizations will overcome the stigma of “social” and seek ways to articulate connections with customers and employees into their business. In just the last half of the year, we’ve worked with several organizations that are doing the hard work of connecting their social efforts to business value — it sounds easy to connect the dots but actually building the organization, governance, and process to do this will be most of the focus in 2014.

It isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t have the appeal of new consumer bright shiny objects or excite of a tech IPO. But this is where the real value will be created, real benefits will be built. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, a bit of gut-wrenching leaps of faith as employees and customers are empowered, but hopefully in a year we’ll have seen key numbers like the percent of companies associating social with business value increase from today.

Highlights from the State of Social Business Infographic

Companies are organizing and formalizing social media strategies into social business strategies…

  • 78% of companies have a dedicated social media team. This is up from 67% two years ago.
  • Social media teams have grown from 11 people in 2010 to almost 16 in 2013.

Social business strategies are spreading across the enterprise…

  • Social media headcount across the enterprise has more than doubled at the largest companies from 20 in 2010 to 49 in 2012.
  • According to our research, there are 13 different departments across the enterprise with at least one person dedicated to social media.
  • The majority of resources are allocated to marketing at 73%, but as you can see, social media covers almost every major function. Now, whether or not social media is organized and integrated, well, we know that it’s not really.

Marketing = 73%
Corporate communications = 66%
Customer support = 40%
Digital = 37%
Social media = 35%
HR = 29%
Product/R&D = 16%
Advertising = 16%
Customer/User experience = 15%
IT = 14%
Legal = 9%

Companies are trying social business to positive business outcomes…

  • About 50% of companies say social business has improved marketing optimization, customer experience and brand health.
  • Nearly one in four have actually seen an increase in revenue.

Companies though have a long way to go…

  • Many social business programs lack a strong foundation.
  • Only 17% of companies identify their social strategy as mature.
  • 52% of companies say that executives are aligned with the overall social strategy.
  • Just 26% of companies approach social media holistically (operating against a cross-enterprise level strategy.)

To succeed, build a foundation for social business…

  1. Benchmark you program with Altimeter’s Social Business reports (see below…underneath the infographic).
  2. Document existing challenges and opportunities to address in 2014 and 2015 (we don’t move as fast as we’d like).
  3. Align all social business efforts with business objectives and priorities.

New Book: The Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy

I’m very proud to announce the publication of an eBook that I co-authored with Brian Solis, entitled “The Seven Success Factors of Social Business Strategy“.

Based on research as well as real-world experience with our clients, Brian and I found that there are common characteristics of successful social business strategies, the most important one being a laser focus on achieving business goals. In fact, the most successful businesses are those with an executive who can articulate the vision and strategy roadmap almost as well as the social strategist.

Here’s a summary of the Seven Success Factors of Social Business:

1.  Define the overall business goals. You can’t align your social strategy with your business objectives if you don’t even know what your objectives are.

2. Establish the long-term vision. If you’re not striving toward the end goal, you’re likely to veer off the path. If you want your team to fully invest in your social strategy — and you need the support of your entire team– you’ll need to communicate your vision with clarity and passion.

3. Ensure executive support. In the early days you may be able to fly under the radar, but at some point, if you want to truly have an impact on the business, you’ll need the backing and support of key executives.

4. Define the strategy roadmap. You already know your business objectives and have a clear vision. But how are you going to get there? Plan out your route, what roads you’ll travel, and what roads you’ll avoid.

5. Establish governance and guidelines. Who is responsible for executing the social strategy? What’s your process of listening and responding to your customers? If you clearly define this process and then stick to it, you’ll spend less tie floating along throughout the social sphere and more time strategizing your social growth.

6. Secure staff, resources, and funding. In the early stages of social growth, you might outsource your social media campaign to an agency, and that’s fine. But you should also be looking down the road and planning to develop internal resources to take your company to the next level as your social prowess — and your business — grows.

7. Invest in technology platforms that evolve. Resist the temptation to jump on the latest technology bandwagon before you have a long-term strategic plan in place. Hold off on making significant technology investments until you’re equipped with a sound vision and strategic plan.

The organizations we studied didn’t necessarily have each of these success factors fully developed; rather, we found that it was much more important that each factor was aligned with immediate and long-term business goals.

So ask yourself — how robust is your social strategy? As you look at each of the elements above, consider how well you are doing in each area. Score your social strategy on each factor on a scale of 1 (not doing it well at all) to 5 (knocking it out of the park). In the spirit of open discussion, I’d love hear how you scored yourself — where your strategy is strong, where you need to improve.

In the book, we go into detail about how to approach each success factor, illustrating the key elements with best practices and exercises, as well as common mistakes to avoid. One of my favorite sections is how to convince and even rally decision makers at the executive level. Brian and I also designed the book to be a quick but useful read — at only 100 pages it’s something that you can give to your team and executives and reasonable expect that they will actually read it!

Our hope is that the book will help you move from having a pile of social media tactics to having a social business strategy around which your entire organization is aligned. And if you need additional help crafting that strategy, Altimeter can also help with our Social Business Strategy service offerings.

More information and additional resources:

Upcoming Webinar: Thursday, August 15th 10am PT/1pm ET. Registration and details.


Why Most Social Strategies Fail

When I ask people what their social business strategy looks like, I usually get the following response, ”Oh yeah, we’re on Facebook.” The conversation continues apace:

- Twitter account…check.
- YouTube videos….yup.
- People who seem to know what they doing with those accounts…kinda.
- Metrics….Likes.

But that isn’t a strategy – it’s a series of tactics. Having a Facebook page is like having a telephone — it’s a tool that needs a purpose. What you DO with Facebook to meet customer expectations and attain business goals lies at the center of a coherent social business strategy.

My colleague Brian Solis and I are in the midst of conducting research on what makes a good social business strategy and a key finding is that as companies evolve their social initiatives, the efforts get disconnected from business goals. So while the company grows in its social media efforts, strategic focus, with a clear goal in mind, falls to the wayside.

This isn’t about waiting until companies have reached a stage of “maturity” before they are deemed to be successful. Rather, we found companies thriving at every stage of social strategy evolution. The key is coherence, where the business goals, executive support, social business capabilities, and the value created by both internal and external social initiatives all work together in harmony.

Here’s an example: one company we spoke with focuses most of their social efforts on developing their Facebook presence. The company rarely replies or engages with people who post on their page. On the surface, you might dismiss this company as not “getting” social media because they don’t actively engage in a two-way dialog.

But in so many ways, their strategy is far more coherent than companies that blindly engage for the sake of engagement. That’s because they are very clear about the purpose of their Facebook presence, which is to showcase the personality of the company. While they enjoy having millions of fans, the key business metric they track is reputation, which is used across all aspects of the business. On a daily basis, they ask their Facebook fans, as well as people in other channels, how they are doing on delivering their products, and if they are doing so in an environmentally sustainable way. They can then compare which channels are effective at driving their goal of improving reputation.

So how can you tell if your social business strategy is successful or failing? One way is to look across the elements of your social strategy and see if they align with each other in such a way that supports clear business goals. Are your capabilities in line with what you are trying to achieve, or have you bitten off too much and are not realizing the full potential of your efforts? Do you have the organizational governance in place to allow disparate business units to align their social efforts against a common enterprise goals, or is each line of business pulling in separate directions?

Another way to gauge where you are with your social business strategy is to take Altimeter’s Social Business Strategy Survey at The aggregated results will appear in an upcoming report, and as a thank you for sharing, you’ll receive a data cut that you can use to benchmark your company against other organizations of the same size. You will receive this benchmark data after the research report is published.

The survey looks at the following topics:

  • Strategy: What are common goals and objectives? How do you measure the value of your social business efforts?
  • Organization: How are your social business efforts organized? How many people are dedicated to social business?
  • Budget: How much are you spending on external and internal social business efforts? What are you planning to spend on technologies and services in 2013?
  • Social Media Policies: What policies do you have in place? How well do employees understand those policies?

Please note that we plan to end the survey in the next week or so, so please take it as soon as possible! Also, please forward to others who may be interested or share with your social networks. Link:

Lastly, please share why you think your social business strategy is successful — or on the flip side, what is dysfunctional about it. We’d all love to learn from your experiences!

Book review: The End Of Business As Usual by Brian Solis

My colleague Brian Solis has just published his latest book, “The End Of Business As Usual: Rewire The Way You Work To Succeed“. I was so excited to finally hold the book in my hands, especially after months of having talked and worked with Brian about the ideas in the book.

This is not a book about how to use social media. Read Brian’s last book, “Engage” as it’s an excellent primer with detailed how-tos. Rather, “End of Business” seeks to explain to executives and leaders who aren’t engaged in social media how connected customers are transforming business as we know it.

Written from the point of view of the connected consumer, the first half of the book looks at phenomenons ranging from the evolution of social networks into personal operating systems to the rise of social commerce. If you read Brian’s blog, you’ll recognize Brian’s fingerprints all over these chapters — rich examples, clear explanations, and always a sense that Brian is at your side as a trusted guide.

But I found the most valuable insights in the second half of the book where Brian becomes prescriptive about how businesses need to approach business differently. In particular, Brian makes the case that you must evolve your business to become “adaptive” to the connected consumer. He’s evolved his call to action from “Engage or Die!” to “Adapt of Die!”. I quote from the book on what is different today:

“The pivot of any business is not whether it can reach consumers, it’s the reality of whether consumers, especially connected customers, wish to connect with them now and over time.”

Brian lays out how a business needs to rewire for this new reality, one that turns away from being internally driven by a strategic plan to one that is guided by an entire organization centered on creating a magical customer experience — and importantly, customer relationship — with these connected consumers. Thus the hallmark of an adaptive business is that it will shift and evolve as an organization, from top to bottom, to be responsive to customers. The last three chapters resonated the most with me, as they layout the framework for an adaptive business, how to evolve your business to shift from rigid to adaptive, and the future evolution into predictive businesses.

You can read more about the book at Other resources:

YouTube video:

Brian’s post:

Jeremiah Owyang’s post:

New video with Brian Solis on “Open Leadership”

Brian Solis recorded a video interview with me discussing the concepts in my book Open Leadership – it’s part of his excellent new video series.

You can watch the video and I also got a transcript made if that’s an easier way to take in the information. The video is 14 minutes long, and a great introduction into some of the foundational elements of open leadership – consider sending it to a leader in your organization!

A special thanks to Brian for taking the time to delve deeply into this topic with me, and to KickLabs for the use of their start-up space for taping.

(R)evolution with Brian Solis and Charlene Li
October 1, 2010

Brian: Hello everyone. I am your host, Brian Solis. Welcome to another episode of (R) evolution. I am excited and extremely pleased to have with us a very special guest and also someone who I get to call a good friend, Charlene Li, who is the author of the best selling new book, Open Leadership. She was also the co-author of another best seller, Groundswell, and today we are going to talk a little bit about what it takes to be an open leader in this era of social media and social technology.

I have this saying that I often share with executives that if a conversation takes place online and you are not there to hear it, did it really happen? And as we look at words that are becoming pervasive in the social era, such as transparency and authenticity and openness, we have to look at the greater meaning of not just these words or these buzz words, but actually what it takes to become an open leader. So the name of the show is (R)evolution with an emphasis on both on Revolution and Evolution, and with that I would like to welcome officially, Charlene, to the show. Thank you very much for being on.

Charlene: Thank you very much for having me.

Brian: The transformation of leadership is no small undertaking. And, I wonder in your experience if you see it to be more of a revolution or an evolution in order to at least get the process moving in the right direction?

Charlene: Well, I think, first of all, by nature leadership doesn’t go in fits and starts. It is something you evolve and move into, but I do fundamentally believe it is an evolution of how you get to that point. Especially being a leader in the social media space. It is so different, and requires that leaders to think in a completely different way. One where they are going to open up and share information, decision-making, where everything, every single fiber in their body says control it; command it. That is what it means to be a leader; be in charge. And yet, in this new era, I think it is much more about what you can enable and bring in, and bringing people together by giving up that control and in that process you actually get more power. But the revolution part is very interesting. I think most leaders won’t get to that point. They will not move into that era, because it is so difficult for them to do that. Therefore, it takes a revolution. It takes a breaking point where they realize they cannot survive anymore, even. They have to be forced and pushed into that new space. Dragged, kicking and screaming, oftentimes, as you have probably seen, and usually, unfortunately, it comes to this cataclysmic external forces, a really bad situations that makes them sit up and realize – I have to do things differently.

Brian: I like to call this the ah-ha versus the oh-oh moment where very few leaders look at that ah-ha with the opportunity that is present before them before they react to the oh-oh moment where we see something like the BP oil spill account on Twitter, where suddenly BP had to start to consider a social presence. Or with the unfortunate videos that hit YouTube for Domino’s, where suddenly Domino’s needed to now have a social strategy. But we are looking at decades of closed, top down leadership where even engagement was outsourced to outside agencies, or to overseas agencies. What is it that you are seeing in terms of the individual within the organization? Is it really the leader who says we need to embrace social? Or is it a champion or a catalyst internally that says let’s think about this differently and here’s why?

Charlene: It is all of those. I have talked to a lot of these social media strategists, the sort of realists, optimists, is what I call them. Somewhere in the middle of the organization, or sometimes in the front lines. And they are the ones who oftentimes are that catalyst, who live in that space. But I have met quite a few CEOs also who get that ah-ha moment, and they lead; they lead absolutely strongly from the top of the organization. Howard Shultz at Starbucks, Chris Conde at Sungard Financial Services Retail, at the top of the game. And what is interesting is they are leading at the very top. They have front line people who are right behind them and then you come into this thing called middle management, and they are incredibly threatened, because they hang onto the hierarchy that closed-ness actually creates, information sharing up and down stovepipes. Authority inside decision-making. And so when the CEO is connecting with the front lines through these informal channels, guess what happens? Chaos. All this angst comes up, and I think we are going through that period now where it is not so much about enterprise 2.0, as it is about leadership 2.0. What does it mean to be a leader when you don’t have control anymore?

Brian: That is a fantastic question, because we look at what is going to put the leader in open leadership, and we see over the years different types, I don’t want to say leaders, because that could be questioned, but we will just say different types of CXOs. And those could be either risk taking or risk adverse. And I would imagine that with social there has to be a common trait in terms of one willing to take risks. But I also see push back in the sense of how big is social, really? And when we look at the idea of that if a conversation takes place online idea, how big does it have to be for them to pay attention or to commit resources, to commit teams, to commit budget for them to actually go down this path?

Charlene: I don’t think it has to be that big. In fact, it is huge, because if you take away the social technology part of it, take away all the things around Twitter and Facebook, and sit down with the executive and say, how important are relationships to your business? And they will say absolutely central. It is the most important thing. Business is all about relationships. And you go, what relationships? Can you define them? What kind of relationships do you want with your employees and with your customers and they describe that sometimes in great detail. And then you show them this is how social can enable that. And it is in the context of regular every day doing business that you have to explain social technologies. Because if you try to bring leaders who have no idea what this new world looks like, kicking and dragging and screaming into it, they won’t understand it. But if you can go into their world, and live and understand what their most important goals are, and most leaders only focus on maybe three or five goals, period.

Brian: When you are dealing with the executive management level, the question that they have is whether or not these are the playgrounds of the younger generations. Because many of them aren’t necessarily on Facebook or Twitter as individuals. And so what ends up happening a lot of times is that they put certain people on the front lines, just because they understand how to use these social technologies. Not because they feel that it is the right thing to do, and definitely not with a direct adverse strategy that is going to help business outcomes. But I wonder at some point we have to figure out a way to change not just the operation of this, and definitely not just the leadership, but also start to take a crack at shaping or shifting the culture of the organization to be more open, and it definitely takes a leader, but at the same time do you see that there is a chance for outside influences, within the organization, for example, to help change or transform or expedite the need for change of the culture within?

Charlene: So, I think, again, externally, the group that is going to cause the greatest amount of change are the customers. The customers being out there, if you are listening to them at all, they are saying, knock, knock, knock. I am here on Twitter. Are you listening to me? I am here on Facebook. B2B companies say, oh, I don’t need to be on Facebook. Well, we just do a quick search for their product or name and services and lo and behold they are on Facebook. So, where are you? Do you want to be part of that conversation that people are having or not? You can chose still, but they are there. So I go back to what are the places organizations, when you have a look at, what are their external forces? This is, again, the most important one, the one that pays the bills, is your customers.

Brian: And do you believe that there are others, maybe the champion within, who is also maybe someone who has the ear of the CEO. Is this book for them as well?

Charlene: I think the book is for multiple people. There are, first of all, the CEOs, the obvious, the executives, and leaders inside the organization. But is also for those people who are trying to influence them, and they, themselves are trying to figure out how do I be a more effective leader. I talk about four different archetypes of leaders, and one of them is the realist/optimist person who is really the change agent. But I also have one of my favorite people, the worried skeptic. This person is just worried to death about what is going to go wrong. How do you get this person to feel comfortable? And actually be a leader in their own right, because they actually are very right in being worried about things. How do you leverage that and how do you work with the other archetypes to support that person, to feel comfortable with this?

Brian: And one of the things that I have seen as well is this idea of experimentation or pilot programs, not just for leadership, but also with social technology and one might experiment outside of just the need to realize that there is an opportunity to change the leadership, but mostly because this is a have to, because competitors are on Facebook and Twitter or they are reading about it in Ad Age or Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, and so in those cases where it begins, let’s just say from the bottom up, and definitely not a top down strategy, what is the switch when the executive role realizes that there is a bigger opportunity here to socialize the business?

Charlene: So I think all of these organic kind of initiatives, the Twitter here and a little bit of YouTube there, and people just sort of doing it, because they can get away with it, I guess, is the way I think about it. Usually at some point there is a conflict internally. Or they are trying to go after the same customer and fighting over the YouTube channel, for example. But somebody in the corporation says, stop it. This is irrational. We have sixteen different brands on Facebook and one knows which is the real us. Or, the CEO goes, all right, which of these things are us? Or what does it look like? Who are we as a brand and what kind of relationship do you want. Usually it grows up and grows up and at some point everyone blows it up and reforms it again into something more rational. That is exactly what happened with HP. They had all these great initiatives, very good homegrown initiatives, but it wasn’t coordinated. So they did this thing called Operation Clean Sheet. They basically started from scratch saying what is it we want? And did that at the corporate level and put enough structure in there. Again, interesting thing, they put structure around being open, but enough structure so that everyone had the freedom to do what they needed and wanted to. But now it is consistent and instead of having fifty-eight different Facebook pages, they have something like nine. It is rational; it is in line with their strategic goals and business units and different areas. And they have all the same branding and clean look around things. And they have tremendous freedom within those templates to make it work. They created all these sandboxes and everyone is in agreement about it.

Brian: I believe that is actually a lot of what the future of social business looks like, and I hope that this is what we see sooner than later. Because there has to be structure to this. In fact, at some point, we are going to have to embrace the groundswell and then play a top down strategy and leadership program so that this is not just driving the team, as well as the innovation behind what the team is capable of, but also by maybe not controlling, but definitely leading the marketplace. And I think that is what individuals are looking for. They are looking to be heard; they are looking for resolution. They are looking to be part of the process, but they are also looking to have something to believe in. And if organizations aren’t embracing this opportunity to demonstrate leadership, I believe that someone else will. And so with that, I would love Charlene for you to give us a few parting words or bits of advice for those watching.

Charlene: I think most importantly than anything else is to redefine what leadership means. It is no longer about controlling resources, or controlling people. It is about inspiring people, and if you think about the best leaders, the people you will follow to the ends of the earth, they didn’t command and control you. They inspired you towards a common goal. And the tools that leaders have to use today are tremendous. You don’t have to just be able to sit next to somebody to inspire them. You can inspire them with your words, with your image. And to be able to use these tools is something that leaders have to get good at. Be really good and confident and excel at this art of sharing.

Brian: And that is Open Leadership, and that is what it is going to take to win. Not just in business, but just in general. And this is what it is going to take to earn the relationships of your customers, your prospects and the individuals that connect them. Open Leadership to me is exactly what Charlene said. It is about inspiring people and if you can’t inspire people, then how can you possibly expect that they can follow you to wherever it is that you are going? How can you possibly expect that they will support you in our endeavors? Leadership, inspiration, empathy. These are all emotional ties, and that is what we find that really powers and connects social media is the idea of emotion, the idea of self expression, the idea of being part of a very personal community or network where individuals are connected around themes and interests and passions. And you have to earn your way into that. So this is your moment to define who you want to be today and tomorrow.