The Social Employee by Cheryl and Mark Burgess

It has always baffled me that companies have taken so long to grasp the opportunities presented by social media. There have been two camps: those that monitor and stifle employees — worrying about the possibilities for legal disasters and missteps is apparently the primary CEO nightmare fuel — and those that find ways to embrace the new engagement potential.

The most successful brands have found the key: that driving innovation is about building a sustainable, informed culture with capable and confident employees. It’s the practical aspects of establishing this culture that Cheryl and Mark Burgess address in their book, The Social Employee — How Great Companies Make Social Media Work. It’s a reference book that you’ll want to keep close by.

The scaffolding of the book is success stories from big enterprises like IBM, AT&T, Dell, Cisco, Southwest Airlines, and Adobe. These brands recognized the tremendous potential of social media, and saw how an entirely new kind of engagement would redefine business, corporate culture, and organizational structure in the dawning of the social era. Small businesses can certainly benefit from the proven track record and expertise of these major brands.

When a shift occurs — one that changes the very way companies create value — it benefits from an expert author who can take a 30,000 foot view of managing the changes. What’s most satisfying about the book is the way the Burgesses show that social media is a method that a) is as inevitable as the sun rising; b) is able to demonstrate value through metrics; c) can be instituted into the corporate culture in a way that minimizes risk; and d) requires an informed employee base, educated and then liberated.

The authors build out from five functional concepts used by IBM:
1. Developing a social listening program.
2. Achieving commitment in the C-Suite.
3. Identifying interaction points.
4. Building systems.
5. Preparing for and insulating against risk.

There are stories to illustrate how great companies instituted cosmic change with aplomb; stories that show how to manage change; stories showing how companies handled risk/reward. Along the way are many practical, concrete techniques that can be a roadmap for companies of any size.

Let these great brands spark your imagination and admiration — and convince you of the really amazing opportunities to create — wisely and prudently — a game-changing social brand.

Cheryl Burgess (@ckburgess) is CEO and CMO of Blue Focus Marketing, author of The Social Employee – How Great Companies Make Social Media Work, to be published by McGraw-Hill, in summer 2013. Cheryl is a social branding consultant with expertise in social business and social media. She is an expert blogger for AT&T Networking Exchange on social media, a syndicated blogger, and the co-founder of #Nifty50 Top Twitter Women and #Nifty50 Top Twitter Men. Huffington Post honored her as one of 40 global women “Passionistas” for her “great business expertise and timeless blog posts.”