During the research for our forthcoming book, Social Business By Design, I ended up taking a close look at a number of other excellent titles on the subject. In the end, I came away concluding there was more than ample room in the market for another entry, but that’s a story I’ll tell when the book goes into the print in the next couple of weeks. Suffice to say I encountered some terrific thinking, quite useful framing, and plenty of fresh ideas — as well as good company in the form of many of the thought leaders that helped define the social business industry. For an industry it certainly is, with all the requisite ingredients.
In fact, the business landscape is now rife with organizations of all sizes who are attempting to grapple with the rapidly changing business conditions brought on by the global growth of social media, particularly its rising domination as a form of communication. There is also a large and vibrant ecosystem of vendors that supply products and services to help said customers, and analysts and thought leaders that observe the interplay between the two — with the rest of the world for that matter — and try to figure out where it’s all going.
The good news, since we’re near the end of the beginning of the social business journey, is that there is a lot of information that can be drawn upon now, particularly some excellent books on the subject, which I’ll list in a moment. However, one question that has come up often about books on social business is whether the format is appropriate for a way of living and working that is essentially based on open participation. In fact, that’s the core tenet of social business: Anyone can participate. While I’ll save a longer answer for my formal announcement ofSocial Business By Design when it hits the shelves by the end of April, let’s just say that books are still a widely used communication and learning channel, and one that has a large global ecosystem that remains well established and highly valuable. In other words, books (paper or digital) are still an effective way to reach people and quite acceptable as long as its starts a meaningful conversation amongst their audience that continues onward, which Peter Kim and I hope it will.
But if you’re reading this, you probably just want to know what the leading social business books are and I’ll get to that now. Please keep in mind that this is not a definitive list and I’m aware of several other excellent books making their way to the market. I’ll update this list if appropriate. So, in no particular order, here are the leading books on social business in my opinion…
The Leading Books on Social Business
- Smart Business, Social Business by Michael Brito. In his book, Michael clearly conveys why it takes more than social marketing to succeed in today’s deeply connected business world. I particularly liked how he explained what’s often the toughest part: That social business transformation requires a genuine cultural shift in how companies do business and in the way they interact with customers and prospects. Readers are given a detailed tour of the people, process, and technology shifts needed to succeed with plenty of details. The book explores social strategy, governance, tools, and metrics with a healthy dose of real-world case studies.
- Socialnomics by Erik Qualman. Views on this book vary widely, yet it’s clearly one of the most popular books on social business, albeit primarily of a marketing and customer engagement bent. Erik explores the impact of social media on business to uncover how businesses can take drive better outcomes in new and innovative ways. His best material is about the changes that must happen to achieve results, specifically the transformation of businesses produce, market, and sell products. Much of the focus of the book is on the different methods businesses must use to connect directly with their customers through today’s global social media platforms.
- Engage by Brian Solis. Brian has written a number of books on topics related to social business but this one is the most focused on the specific process of social media enablement and transformation. The book lays out how to develop an online ecosystem for the business and cultivates customers’ loyalty and trust in order to engage them for better business outcomes. Other useful details include how to establish an organizational structure that effectively delivers on social media while being poised for the next-generation just around the corner, including “detailed and specific steps required for conceptualizing, implementing, managing, and measuring a social media program.”
- The Mesh by Lisa Gansky. While not directly about social business per se, this book articulates a crucial endpoint for processes that are highly open and where everyone can participate (yes, social business.) In Lisa’s view — and I agree — business today is now about enabling entirely new operating models and ways of creating business value that are highly cooperative and self-organizing. Lisa’s book is vital for understanding the bigger picture for which social business is a key plank. Highly recommended for getting business leaders to think outside the box and get ready for culture and organizational change (and innovation.)
- Empowered by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler. A follow up for Bernoff of the highly influentialGroundswell, Empowered is a detailed look at how employees with great ideas in an organization can be enabled to innovate and transform a business to better serve its customers. In their view, powered by pervasive social technologies, customer service (aka Social CRM) has definitively become the new source of marketing. Empowered lays out a detailed process for getting there with managers eponymously empowering employee innovators (described as HEROs in the book) and IT/business stakeholders to better serve customers directly to generate a wide variety of interesting results, from word-of-mouth marketing to better product ideas. Bernoff’s and Schadler’s analyst roots pay off with many case studies and pragmatic examples that demonstrate how social business empowerment is already happening in scale.
- Macrowikinomics by Don Tapscott. The successor to Don’s hugely successful Wikinomics, this book takes the social business conversation up to a whole new level. While some have pointed out that actionable specifics are largely not included in the book, that’s beside the point: The goal of the book is to present a compelling case for the way we’ll organize our businesses, governments, and society now and in the future. A powerful book for those that want the entire big picture of social business (here called mass collaboration) and how it can solve problems that have been intractable or merely just very hard. While not a practitioners book, I advise everyone to be familiar with the strategic conversation this book lays out to get a clear view of the all moving parts.
- Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky. Coined from a concept that Clay frequently discusses, namely that we’re just now learning how to tap into the full productive and creative capacity of our collective cultures and communities, this book lays out the whys and hows of using participation to create compelling and unique business outcomes. Subtitled “How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators“, this book the means, motivations, opportunities, cultural issues, and supporting examples into a coherent story about how emergent business solutions powered by social media will change business forever.
- The Social Organization by Bradley and McDonald. Authored by two of Gartner’s leading analysts, this book makes a very strong case for employing social technology in the enterprise to get work done better. Sharing insights from their research into the successes and failures of four hundred plus organizations that have employed social technologies for workforce and customer-facing business solutions, the authors go well beyond technology and into the human element. Discussion includes how and why to build strategic communities, designing new ways of openly collaborating, and how to guide social business efforts to achieve a purpose, and so on. Bradley and McDonald also identify the core disciplines managers should master in order to transform social collaboration into otherwise unlikely yet highly potent results.
Get Bold by Sandy Carter. One of the most interesting social business stories of the decade has been IBM’s not-so-gradual conversion to being a social business. While such transformation is generally quite hard to do for large companies, the global technology giant did it in record time. This book, by one of IBM’s top social business evangelists, clearly demonstrates that they truly “get” the changes happening and know how to get there. After making the case for what social business entails, Sandy lays out the steps to reach social business maturity and includes her AGENDA framework for achieving it.
- The Social Customer by Adam Metz. Metz treats Social CRM comprehensively considering it from many angles and aspects, from process to tools. He explores the 23 use cases that simultaneously provide the fabric for actionable, practical and approachable methods for engaging usefully with the social customer. Metz borrows from and builds on the excellent work of Greenberg’s CRM at the Speed of Light and Kim and Mauborgne’s Blue Ocean Strategy to create a picture consistent with a larger set of thought leadership.
- The Executive’s Guide to Enterprise Social Media Strategy by Thomas and Barlow.
- Social Networking for Business by Rawn Shah.
- Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead by Charlene Li.
- Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web by Euan Semple.
- We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media To Build a Better World by Mainwaring and Lee.
Please note, that while I tended to emphasize books that were highly approachable, all of these are worth the time and effort either for your own edification about social business or to help educate your business and technical leadership teams. Finally, while there is no doubt I may have left a few good titles out of this list, I’m happy to — and will — add any titles to this list that commentors are particularly passionate about. I hope you find this helpful and a useful resource for assembling the definitive literature on social business.