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Aha! Social Can Transform Businesses - and Create Value, Too

2014-15-July-teamwork.jpgGo ahead. Make collaboration a priority at the next meeting with your senior leaders. New research confirms what people like Oscar Berg have long been preaching. In fact, there is clear evidence companies across industries are creating value with social business. 

That's the key finding from the just released third annual Social Business Global Executive Study and Research Project. Conducted jointly by the MIT Sloan Management Review and two subsidiaries of Deloitte LLP — Deloitte Consulting and Deloitte Services — the report is based on insights from surveys, interviews, literature and what the authors describe as "robust debates."

Social business has come of age, the report finds. What's more, proponents no longer have to feel like they are talking to the wind when they argue its merits. "Increasingly, corporate leaders realize that social business is changing the way organizations operate and the experiences they provide to their customers and constituents."

What's Social Business?

Say "social business" and you'll get a lot of definitions. So before we go on, let's look at how the study defines the topic. It uses social business broadly to include activities that use social media, social software and technology-based social networks "to enable connections between people, information and assets. These activities could be internally focused within the enterprise or externally focused toward customers, suppliers and partners."

Examples include:

  • Social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter
  • Social software: Instant messaging, wikis, blogs, enterprise collaboration platforms
  • Technology-based social networks: employee and community forums

The report calls the value that companies derive from these activities social business value.

Social business, by its very definition, is inclusive. It does not exist in a vacuum. As Wendy Harman, director of management and situational awareness at the American Red Cross, noted in the report, "The idea is to infuse and integrate social tools into the entirety of what the organization does."

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The Study in Brief

If you're more prone to tweet than read, we'll make it easy. Here are the key takeaways:

Social business is important: Nearly three out of four survey respondents describe social business as important. Nearly 90 percent see its importance on a three-year horizon.

Savvy companies measure their social business efforts: More than 90 percent of maturing companies actively measure. These organizations are using a battery of tools, such as operational and financial metrics, to connect social initiatives to business outcomes. Only about half of the least socially mature companies in this year’s survey measure their efforts.

Social business is a big B2B phenomenon: About 60 percent of B2B firms say social positively impacts business outcomes

Employees want to work for companies that excel at social business: About 57 percent rate it as at least somewhat important. That attitude is consistent among respondents aged 22 to 52.

Getting Your Money's Worth

This is interesting, too. The higher respondents rate their companies on a social business maturity scale, the more likely they are to report that social business creates "real value."

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Companies can advance toward social business maturity by focusing on its three primary drivers:

  1. Use social business data to help make decisions: Social business efforts need to drive tangible business outcomes.
  2. Having a leadership vision premised on the belief that social can fundamentally change the business: C-suite alignment is critical if social business is to permeate the organization.
  3. Move social business beyond marketing to realize that vision: Use social to recruit and retain talent and help it flourish.

The B2C Myth

The survey challenges the notion that social business is a B2C phenomenon. In fact, in the two most recent annual surveys, respondents from B2C and B2B companies share similar views about the importance of social business. In addition, a substantial percentage of B2B respondents report that their companies are creating value with their social business initiatives. The report noted:

 

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