The State of Social Business
Social business, while not a fad, is a short-term ‘buzz’ term to loosely and ambiguously describe the manner and methods of how businesses use social media in conducting business.
Ironically, the term has been stolen, nay bastardized, from its source, first defined by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus. Yunus describes social business in his books as business with a social conscious or social focus; business that is not at the expense of the planet or humankind.
The new, technology-oriented social business is eminently more selfish, but not without its potential or power to change modern business. Though the term social business will fade to join other has-been vernacular like cyberspace and ‘information super highway,’ the concept is here to stay, and its power will only increase.
Social media has revolutionized the Internet, and it’s begun to revolutionize business communications. A strong majority of businesses are using social media today – about three in four are using social media in some shape or form.
The new social business statistics (The Social Skinny, 2012) testify to the sweeping influence and increasing prevalence of corporate social media:
- 65% of the world’s top companies have an active Twitter profile
- 90% of marketers use social media channels for business, with 93% of these rating social tools as “important”
- 43% of marketers have noticed an improvement in sales due to social campaigns
- 72% of marketers who have worked in social media for three or more years said that they saw a boost in turnover due to social channels (the longer you’re working in it the better you get)
- 91% of experienced social marketers see improved website traffic due to social media campaigns
- 79% are generating more quality leads
Internally, behind the corporate firewall, social media has slowly seeped onto the corporate intranet, and become an increasingly used communications tool. While executives have been slow to allow employees to use social media during their day-to-day lives, most companies are at least experimenting with social intranet tools (The Social Intranet Study, 2012):
- 61% of organizations have at least one social media tool on their intranet
- 45% of organizations have intranet blogs
- 40% have employee discussion forums
- 37% have employee wikis
- 26% offer social networking for employees
Of course, how often companies use social media, or digital tools, and how ‘well’ they use them is open to debate with underwhelming evidence. The Harvard Business Review published a review of The Fortune 500 and their digital aptitude and efforts (Do You Have The Digital Leaders You Need?), namely an evaluation of the ‘digital’ nature and business of Fortune 500 companies." To qualify as “highly digital” a company must:
- generate a high percentage of revenues digitally
- have a CEO and Board of Directors with deep digital experience
- conduct business significantly ‘enabled by digital channels’
- be recognized as transformational in its industry
Sadly, only nine companies (less than 2% of the Fortune 500) are in fact "highly digital.” Needless to say if only nine of the most powerful companies on Earth are “highly digital” then predictably a very small sliver is “highly social.” In fact, only 9% of respondents to the Social Intranet Study survey reported that they had a truly “social intranet” (defined as an intranet with multiple social media tools that most or all employees can access and use; with at least some integration of social media tools into the home page of the intranet, and most aspects of content consumption).
While most businesses are thinking social, few are actually ‘living’ social. Many are playing with and even finding some success with a smattering of social tools; but using and integrating social media into most aspects of their day-to-day business – inside and outside the firewall – is still an evolutionary leap of some years away for most. In the meantime, most businesses get a failing grade in social business. However, leaders like Cisco, IBM and Microsoft are inspiring a ‘social’ evolution in business that most others recognize and are at least planning or hoping to emulate in the future.
Social Media Today