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Michael Brenner is senior director of global marketing for SAP. He is also author of the B2B Marketing Insider blog and cofounder of social news site Business 2 Community. Michael is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 101 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Is Empathy The Secret Ingredient To A Social Business

01.16.2013
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What separates a social business from a “regular” business?

The truth is, identifying a social businesses and separating those traits from less social peers is not easy.

I have suggested combining the forces of predictive analytics, social media, big data and the cloud to define a new metric of marketing success called “share of conversations.” But I’m not sure that is enough.

In a recent article, Nick Kellet (@NickKellet) asked if passion would be the marketing metric of the future where we measure “share of mind” or “share of heart?”

Whatever we call it, we are experiencing a battle for customer attention. And I believe it is empathy that will separate the companies that are successful in becoming social businesses from those that struggle with the conversations happening in the marketplace without them.

What is a Social Business?

Let’s start with a definition. To simplify, I define a social business as an open, social community of active content producers who are engaged with their content consumers, social connections, customers, partners and employees to exchange value.

I have also seen social business defined as one where the interests of customers and employees are equal to that of the business.

The Social Media Challenge

The fact is that most social media marketing stinks as companies have reacted to their customers and employees use of social media by creating an overwhelming and unsustainable number of social media accounts. According to the Altimeter Group, the average company has 178 social media accounts.

And these accounts are simply adding noise to the content marketing echo chamber because  most of the content coming from these accounts is dreadfully boring.  It makes the biggest marketing mistake of all by only talking about the company, the products it has to sell, and why you should buy them.

And the next generation of employees and customers are even less likely to put up with these overly-promotional lectures. They are seeking conversations with the brands they want to support.

The Social Business Imperative

I believe we need social, content and employee empowerment strategies to move beyond social guidelines and training on the tools.  We need to help the business build an army of brand ambassadors with strong personal brands. And we need to encourage them to engage with customers, partners and fellow employees on the platforms they want.

The process to build these mechanisms is well known and widely discussed. The problem is not “how to do it?”

The problem is that most organizations do not possess the secret ingredient to building a social business: empathy.

Is Empathy The Secret Ingredient To A Social Business?

Search for branded websites that you love and you will find that nearly all of them speak to you (the visitor) and the value you will receive as opposed to being about themselves (what they sell). Look at brands that connect with you and you will realize that they make you feel like they sincerely care about you.

For my wife (@lizbrenner), Zappos and Warby Parker exemplify this spirit by allowing you to return items for any reason on them or order multiple versions of the same items to find the one you might love the most. These companies make my wife feel like they care about her.

I think it is as simple as that. But empathy is hard. Empathy means focusing on the long-term value of customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention. Empathy means you have to stop trying to promote yourself and put your customer and employee needs ahead of the business’ short-term goals.

So how do we get there?

Having more socially-engaged executives might help? Do we need leaders who make empathy a core value of their companies? How do we hire, promote and encourage leaders who espouse empathy?

I’d like to hear from you. Is empathy the secret ingredient to a social business? How do we get there?

Republished with permission .

Published at DZone with permission of Michael Brenner, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)