Two highlights of the Inbound Marketing Summit in New York were keynotes on the first day from Barry Libert and Chris Brogan.

Libert, founder of Open Matters, a technology investor and strategic advisory firm, and author of “Social Power,” sent a harsh warning to marketers that social and mobile networks are “eating the world.”

Citing examples that included the impact social networks had on uprisings in Libya and Syria, Libert hit closer to home when he mentioned how RIM, Borders, and Blockbuster fell victim to what social networks can do to a brand. “Social networks have become more powerful than the institutions that created them,” he said. “[You now] have a second chance to do something.”

Rather than having a presence on social networks for the sake of it, Libert offered marketers four suggestions for embracing the power of social and digital connections, using Nike as an example:

  1. Invest in software. For Nike, the analytics from the data it gets from the Nike+ community of runners has become just as important to the company’s success as the shoes it creates.
  2. Create networks. Allow your customers to speak openly about your products and provide valuable (positive and negative) feedback.
  3. Reduce what doesn’t work. While Nike still does a great deal of traditional advertising, the company has shifted a significant portion of that budget elsewhere.
  4. Enhance services. Support areas of your business that customers interact with directly. Invest in what matters by transitioning from “me talking” to “me listening.”

Libert emphasized that although where we lived, our religion, and our hobbies once told others who we were, it’s social and mobile networks that are defining today’s generation. “Turn your business upside down,” he said. “Engage with customers on their terms with relevant conversations.”

Later in the day, the Inbound Marketing Summit welcomed author and marketing consultant Chris Brogan, president of Human Business Works, who emphasized the importance of connecting your social and retail presences. “When I go into a Men’s Warehouse store, they should know that I’m active with them on Facebook and not treat me like every other customer,” he said.

Always entertaining, Brogan directed a room of about 200 marketers to tell stories about their customers, emphasizing what Ann Handley from MarketingProfs inspires all marketers to do and make customers the heroes of your story instead of the product. “Business is about belonging. Inclusion is the new black,” he said.

As mentioned in one of my previous Marketing Optimization Blog posts, social commerce goes well beyond attributing a sale to an inbound channel like Facebook. Throughout March, we’ll explain this concept more fully as we focus on social as a consistent theme for a lot of the commentary, case studies, and strategy we’ll be publishing. Stay tuned for more.