social business, mit report
Social business is mostly stuck in first gear for many companies, an MIT report has found, but looking to marketing, sales and customer service departments, businesses can see examples of where it fits in, and can build from there. 

Marketing + Sales Most Popular Uses for Social

As we noted in part one of our look at MIT's detailed report, companies like Dell have been successful in social business in large part because of exemplary leadership on the issue, and use of a centralized strategy across departments.

That's a large company that has had success with social business, and the Social Business: Shifting Out of First Gear research report from the MIT Sloan Management Review in conjunction with Deloitte paints Dell as a sort of proof of concept.

We've moved beyond a world where companies rely on Facebook Likes as a core metric for their social business strategy, the report found. Instead, more and more companies are using social capabilities to understand market shifts (65%), improve visibility into operations (45%) and identify internal talent or key contributors (45%).

The percentages above are for companies maturing in social business, percentages given for companies at an earlier stage of adoption were in the single digits.

Next to marketing, sales ranked as the most popular area where social tools were used to a large or great extent. Social selling in particular is getting more popular, and the tools developed to help sales people is only one part of what it takes to generate leads on social media.

The Importance of LinkedIn

MIT looked at Dell in the first part of its report, and in this section it turns to LinkedIn. The report uses an unnamed large tech company that used LinkedIn social selling. As CMSWire readers know, enterprise sales are complex and often time consuming, and in the given example, this company used a LinkedIn social sales tool called Sales Navigator.

With it, sales teams had access to all second and third degree connections of their coworkers. Using that window into other organizations' potential connections, the sales team could see potential clients, and meet them through their established connections.

From there, credibility could be established with relevant content, and perhaps leads identified. Besides the Sales Navigator, the unnamed company was using LinkedIn's Social Selling Index. This ranks an organization's use of the social selling tool by looking at things like its reach, activity and contribution. That way, organization leaders could see what their sales teams were doing, and offer feedback and perform optimizations.

Another LinkedIn customer, Morgan Stanley, is using both it and Twitter to help its financial advisers build their businesses. People mention something about a promotion at work on social media, and advisers can pick up on that, and steer a conversation toward personal finance, for example.

Morgan Stanley used a scorecard to track engagement of its advisers, and found 40% had brought in new businesses from social media. One even used LinkedIn to win a US$ 70 million account, the report found.

Social Business Proving a Success, for Some: MIT Report
Rating an organization's social maturity on a scale of 1 to 10.

Barriers to Social Business Adoption + Leadership Actions 

Companies at every stage of social adoption face barriers, and with the right moves by leadership they can all be overcome. Examples were lack of an overall strategy, no strong business/proven value proposition and lack of management understanding. These were the top three barriers for those in the early stages of social business adoption.

For companies in the developing stage of social adoption, the top three barriers were too many competing priorities, lack of an overall strategy and security concerns. Companies in the maturing stage saw too many competing priorities, security concerns and overall lack of strategy as barriers in that order.

The report goes on to give specific actions leadership can take in order to combat those barriers. Recommended actions for executives were broken down into three sections

  • Lead the strategy
  • Signal the importance of the medium
  • Have the right attitude toward measurement

Tracking Progress in Social

Social business adoption can be uneven, as we have seen, and that makes tracking progress difficult. Research has shown there are three common adoption patterns, John Hagel, Deloitte Center for the Edge found. Quite often, the first step will be a small group of people using the tools on their own, just for their own purposes.

Another common approach is when an executive sees the value of social and adopts it for his or her department. The other common way is when executives give the go ahead on social in a sort of, check this box approach. They may see its importance, but not necessarily have a deep understanding of its value.

While social business tools may be adopted unevenly, there are five stages that can act as signals for how companies are progressing, Ray Wong, CEO Constellation Research found. The five stages are discovery, experimentation, evangelization, pervasiveness and realization. 

An organization moves from discovery to experimentation when it identifies an outcome to achieve, for example. It then moves from experimentation to evangelization when the experiment in one department or division becomes a model for similar experiments in other parts of the company, and so on.

Whatever kind of social business is being undertaken, whether social marketing, collaboration tools or social selling, this is one of the best frameworks we've seen yet on understanding where to start and what is needed to know. If Gartner analysts are correct, social could indeed forge multiple billion dollar industries in each of these categories, so organizations need to get out of first gear on social.