“Social business” has become a popular buzzword, but what are the processes and best practices that successful social businesses use to boost profits, decrease expenses and increase customer satisfaction? A new report from IBM aimed to find out. 

The report, “Social Business: Patterns in achieving social business success by leading and pioneering organizations,” defines a social business as “an organization whose culture and systems encourage networks of people to create business value.” It points to socially connected Customer Service departments, where customer defection rates can be reduced as much as five percent and profits can be increased up to 68 percent. Network-driven processes can reduce Product Development by as much as two-thirds, HR can drop up to two days of onboarding time for new hires, marketing departments can double their market exposure, and so on.

Social Business Patterns

The report found that organizations operating with social business techniques and orientation can improve their processes through Social Business Patterns, similar in concept to business process flows. The Patterns are:

  • Finding Expertise
  • Gaining External Customer Insights
  • Increasing Knowledge Sharing
  • Improving Recruiting and On-Boarding
  • Managing Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Enabling and Improving Workplace Sanity

Take the problem of finding expertise, either in people or in content. In most organizations, employees do not just volunteer their expertise, and sometimes their knowledge leaves with them. As a result, opportunities fail to be quickly resolved in sales, service and support.

Thumbnail image for IBM - 1 Social Business report.png

By using analytics on social interactions, expertise can automatically be discovered, and social tools can be provided for communication, collaboration, documentation for future use and sharing of such knowledge. Social techniques include employee profiles, blogs, permission-based emails, content repositories and search tools. IBM said that, based on the use of its Connections software, this Social Business Pattern can result in a 30 percent improvement in the speed of accessing experts and a 55 percent increase in the visibility of a company’s subject matter experts on its public website.

Sharing Knowledge

To gain external customer insights, the report recommends the practice of integrating social media outreach with internal social collaboration platforms, so that employees can directly track customer sentiments and observations, and can collaboratively respond to customer needs.

To do this, an organization deploys social monitoring tools for directly listening to customer sentiment, analytical tools to gain insight, communication tools to converse with key influencers and collaboration tools to identify and develop responsive products/services through internal social systems. The results include reductions in customer/agent service costs, in time to develop new products/features/services and in time to release new product information.

Similarly, knowledge in a social business can evolve from what the report called “discrete knowledge transactions” to continual “knowledge relationships.” Actions to do so include social communication, expert recommendations and gamification activities to reward knowledge sharing.

One little-noted benefit of social business techniques, the report pointed out, is the integration of diverse cultures when organizations are combined through mergers and acquisitions. IBM points to its own 120 acquisitions since 2001, and its use of social business techniques for identifying potential candidates, collaboratively building business cases to justify the acquisition and rapid onboarding of new employees.

The era of the social business is just getting started. IBM, for instance, didn’t declare itself on the way to becoming a social business until early 2011. Although this report does utilize IBM’s own social business tools and solutions as examples, it also gives a solid overview of how the emerging benefits can best be applied to any company.

Title image courtesy of Mert Toker (Shutterstock)