• November 16, 2012
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Many Businesses Are Still Unsure About Social's Benefit

According to Forrester Research, the market for social enterprise apps is expected to grow 61 percent through 2016. But a new report by IBM has found that while 46 percent of companies are increasing their social technology investments this year, 78 percent of mid-level managers are struggling to embrace these capabilities as part of their day-to-day work.

Among the 1,160 business and IT professionals who participated in the study, only 22 percent believe they are prepared to incorporate social tools and approaches into their daily practices. Many are still trying to figure out whether real returns can be gained on social investments, with two-thirds of respondents saying they were not sure they sufficiently understood the impact social technologies would have on their organizations during the next three years.

According to the report, titled "The Business of Social Business: What Works and How It's Done," companies at the forefront of this trend are doing more than developing a presence on major social platforms. A social business embeds social technologies into core business processes, and then applies the technologies to drive customer-facing activities, such as lead generation, sales, and post-sales service.

"Businesses are struggling to make sense of the vast amount of data generated from social networks," Kevin Custis, vice president and global leader of social business and mobility services at IBM Global Business Services, explains. "To transform a vision into a reality, executive leadership must guide middle management on the value of being a social business and build company-wide support for the use of social practices across organizational functions."

As demonstrated in the study, the key to accelerating widespread adoption lies in an organization's ability to build social business expertise among employees, while encouraging behavioral changes that might influence a wider cultural shift. However, only one-quarter of companies believe they are fully prepared to address the cultural changes that are associated with this transformation.

The IBM report suggests that for organizations to evolve into social enterprises, some basic groundwork must be laid. At the most basic level, management must provide an infrastructure for engagement—setting up forums, teamrooms, and collaborative spaces. Once in place, social practices should be integrated into day-to-day work activities.

The organization must also help employees understand where and how data generation could benefit the enterprise. Finally, management must teach employees how to use social media to collaborate effectively with individuals outside of the company.

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