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Jan 16, 2020 Sarah Goodall

Susan Emerick Podcast: Social Business Success

susan emerick campfire chat






Susan Emerick: Social Business Success Takes People, Process & Technology


Back in 2014 when I was working at SAP, I read an industry-changing book called The Most Powerful Brand On Earth by Susan Emerick, all about empowering employees and integrating partners through social advocacy.  You see, Susan and I were on a similar path and her book changed my thinking around social media marketing. Since then I’ve met Susan several times and apart from the fact I can’t believe I get to talk and meet with one of my advocacy heroes, I love working with her. 

Susan is an author, educator and speaker covering Digital Marketing Strategy, Brand Advocacy, Social Business and Influencer Marketing. The founder of Brands Rising, which helps customers harness the power of digital and social networking to improve customer engagement and drive business results. Susan has recently taken up research in this area and last year, we partnered together for her Masters in Market Research thesis to try to understand those that lead social business transformation programs – people who do the role today that we did several years ago at IBM and SAP.


Embarking On A Mission

In 2005, Susan was working as a digital strategist for IBM. Her team was responsible for understanding the role of what social networking and social media could become in terms of a traffic referral. They began investigating various aspects, from understanding the digital ecosystem, and how individuals were connected with one another to what the natural language of their conversation was and how prominent they were. They also considered the role of community-respected evangelists, thought leaders, or what we now know as influencers, or micro influencers.

After a time, Susan and her colleagues began to see a pattern: they began to see employees. Employees who were early adopters, building their own connection points within particular communities and they were starting to be found on the map. This was perhaps the true beginning of using social intelligence to inform strategy.


The Wrong Way About It

Susan suggests in modern day Social Business strategy, one of the main missteps has been to not align strategy to the company’s goals. She states, any effort, whether it takes human capital to accomplish or financial capital to accomplish, must align to achieving a company's goals and be a part of the strategy. Otherwise, decision making will hinder the goal - not support it. For example, many companies often rush into picking a tool without defining the goals or aligning them to the strategy. Nor do they consider the human aspect of adoption or the processes involved in rolling out such a program.

People, process and technology are always going to be the heart of any Social Business Program’s success, Susan tells us, because when you start with the technology, and don’t consider the rest, you’re going to face change management issues. You need to think about equipping your employees, educating them, inspiring and motivating them, recognising them, determining what you need to do when someone moves on from your company, for example. As well as these aspects, you also have to consider program design elements, and the many integrations. You simply can't rush into the technology choice without contemplating the other two in advance. It only leads to failure and wasted budget.


The Role of Channel Partner Advocacy

Interestingly, Advocacy doesn't just stop with your own employees. In particular, Channel Partners can play a vital role to your Social Business success. This is because, partners essentially become the sales organisation, and are representing your brand. Susan clearly states, you need to help partners differentiate your brand and how they can stand out in the crowd. Partners can often bring unique combinations to the marketplace for you, due to not only sharing their personal expertise and your products, but also what makes their company tick, too. Because they might be regional, they might specialise in a particular area, they might bring in an extended ecosystem of additional partners. They can help you reach more markets.

This in turn causes a ripple effect, Susan says, and a force multiplier to the primary brand. You can start thinking of your distribution network as a way to extend your ability to create advocacy, because really, it’s more about the number of people who are willing to have a voice on your behalf, than it is the number of channels. Ask yourself, who are your natural advocates? They are certainly going to be your channel partners, because their business is successful if your business is successful. It's serendipitous.


Social Business Transformation Research Results

Susan recently worked on a Masters study into Social Business, particularly into the drivers of what motivates individuals to partake in social business, what their challenges and expectations were, and what were the most important topics in terms of what they were interested in learning about and fortifying their skills in.

Her research covered both qualitative and quantitative aspects, the results were interesting. One focal point of discovery was that the true grassroots movement that's happening around social business is happening in middle management:


  • They are the ones who are expressing the most interest and innovation when it comes to their skills development, and for learning opportunities.
  • They were the ones reaching out to likeminded individuals to be honest with one another about what they were working on.
  • To learn from one another and adapt from challenges that they as practitioners have run up against.
  • Creating a go-to group that didn’t include sellers of any kind of platform. A private forum to act not only as a trust resource, but as an education tool also.


A Better Path

As a semi-veteran of the Social Business world what can be learnt from those who’ve gone down this path before? First and foremost, Susan focused on vetting information. Listening to those who've actually had experience doing it in a brand, those who have pioneered and built the business cases you need to create before approaching your executive to explain why they should invest in something like this. People can give you advice - you can use it in your own role.

It’s also about looking more closely at your data and going back to the people, process and technology. Because when you start with a tool, you end up with adoption issues, which then creates retention issues for the tool. By shifting your focus into regrouping on the strategy front, and considering what you are using this tool for, you can determine the right people to equip it with.

Make Social Business work smarter - not harder. A successful program takes investment in program strategy, on the people in the process front, and then looking at how the technology fits into that.


Outline of This Episode:

[00:27] Intro to Susan Emerick & what she’s been up to!
[01:55] Uncovering the Social Listening opportunity
[05:32] Why Social Advocacy is going wrong?
[09:03] What makes Channel Advocacy so powerful?
[12:17] Social Business Transformation Research: The Results
[15:56] Finding proven practitioners for the best path
[17:32] Advice for Social Business Leaders


Resources Mentioned:

About Tribal Impact

Tribal Impact is a B2B Social Selling and Employee Branding Agency.

We're a team of social media strategists, trainers, coaches, content creators and data analysts who are passionate about helping our B2B customers develop and scale their social selling and employee advocacy programs.

Learn more about us here.

Published by Sarah Goodall January 16, 2020
Sarah Goodall