Social Business matters today – and will matter even more tomorrow

Social business is just getting started. But its value is clearly emerging for innovation, operations, leadership and marketing. So what are companies really doing?

In 2012 MIT Sloane Management conducted a survey to really investigate that question. Below you will find my highlights and takeaways from this study.

Even though social technologies have been around for some years now. The sentiment from the report is that many companies are still holding back on the adoption of social tools. Of those surveyed, 52% said that it was important or somewhat important to them today. Whilst 86% believe that it will be important or somewhat important in three years.
Social business is primarily viewed as a tool for external facing activities with marketing departments, sales and customer services being the main driving force with customer relationship management being at the forefront.
The second important use of social software was to drive innovation and competitive differentiation. So whilst the majority see the importance over the coming years most are viewing social tools as external activity, with a smaller group understanding its potential for internal innovation and collaboration.

The Barriers.
The report highlights the biggest barrier is leadership vision. However it is noted that CEOs are twice as likely to drive strategic adoption of social tools than the CIO and CFO.
Lack of understanding on how to measure the effectiveness of social tools is also cited as an inhibitor of adoption with many not measuring at all. Social business depends on leadership, metrics may not be critical when experimenting with social software, but as it becomes more important to organisations, having metrics in place can help managers assess, encourage and reward related behaviours. Helping shift their cultures to be more compatible with social business. CEOs recognise that leadership can be improved with social business, may be more than other members of the C-Suite.

The Challenge
Gartner estimates that the failure rate for social business projects is 70%. That is astonishingly high. Factors that could be responsible include:
– Not using the software deployed to solve a true business problem
– Integration into daily work flow
– Lack of senior management support
– Thinking email is a collaborative tool
– The use of “Social” with the word “Business” vs “Social Media”
– Not realising we are Human. (The three basic psychological factors : The need to connect, feel competent and the need to be autonomous in one’s actions)

The report asked “Why do you use social business at work?” The top three answers being : To network, effectiveness and to voice opinions.
Motivations to participate in social business activities are thus far from superficial and even go beyond just our social nature. They can help fulfil basic psychological needs.

The report also noted that larger organisations and smaller organisations appreciate the value of social business more than that of mid size organisations. With the smaller companies saying they could increase their voice and connect with customers to really make themselves seem bigger than they really are.

The Plan
A clear vision of how social media supports the business strategy was top facilitator in the report. So the first step in your social business journey is to create and communicate the broader social strategy for your organisation. What business challenges are to be solved with  social business activities? What is the Strategy to make this happen? What technology best supports these objectives? What kinds of social networks will support this strategy? Most important is to realise that your social business journey will take time, require and drive changes to your business processes. Defining organisational structure an how you interact with customers and employees.

Take the time to access where you are today, identify problems that are currently being addressed with social tools. Consider if the correct resources are being directed towards the right problems. If you are heavily regulated make sure you have governance process in place to address these. Identify the people or roles that will focus on social business and how these individuals will coordinate with each other. Use listening tools to collect information about your brand, customer service and competition. This area hols tremendous potential for organisations.

Ensuring that your business has enough resources is fundamental. Have you chosen to assign the tasks to an individual or will it be on top of someone’s day job. Will you have incentives in place, targeting and rewarding the correct people. Have you resources in place for communication, content creation, community management and training.

Whilst the report makes it clear that many companies are not measuring and whilst in experimentation mode this may not be so important. Measurement will however need to be conducted especially when redefining practices and processes, measuring adoption thought will be misleading so not advised. For people, often what matters most is whether the tools helps them to do their jobs more effectively.

 

Given that social business is just getting started you may be tempted to wait. But that approach may delay achieving its potential in your organisation, to the detriment of your innovation, leadership, operations and marketing.

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Posted January 24, 2013 by Ben Martin - Social_Ben in category CEO, CMO, IBM, Social Business, Technology

About the Author

I am a gadget man, a film lover, Husband and proud father and not least proud to be an IBM’er. Currently working across the globe helping seller to create better connections with clients through the use of Social Media. Please feel free to contact me if I can help I will. (my opinions are of course – my own)

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