Ethan McCarty

Digital strategy | Social business | People-centric biznology

Social Media Week Shines a Light on Social Business

This week the digerati and the everyday netizen alike will look up for a moment from their laptops and smart phones to focus their eyes on Social Media Week, a worldwide series of interconnected events and activities about emerging trends in social and mobile media across all major industries.

The people who shape the future of our digital lives will share ideas, strategies and insights with an eye towards improving digital experiences for the people and organizations they care about most. While social media has significantly shaped how we communicate and connect in our personal lives, there’s a related trend that the most sophisticated enterprises have already begun to embrace: social business. Engaging in social media through Facebook,  YouTube and the like represent just one element businesses can explore, but business is more than media – so how can businesses apply the principles of “social” to other dimensions of their organizations to improve outcomes?

In today’s business environment, organizations must become more agile, creative and innovative in order to compete. Forward-looking organizations amplify the benefit of human interactions in just about any business process by making them social (as opposed to trying to engineer the human interactions out of the business process, which is the unfortunate legacy of many enterprise systems.) For example, interacting with the sales team of a social business might include benefiting from digital artifacts of human interactions reaching deep into that company’s supply chain or research division. A really sophisticated social business might have friendly and easily navigable visualizations of these artifacts of interactions. So this is to say that social business is a superset of interactions that includes social media — since media is just one dimension of interaction with an organization.

According to Forrester Research, the market opportunity for social enterprise apps is expected to grow at a rate of 61 percent through 2016, reaching $6.4 billion, compared with $600 million last year (“Social Enterprise Apps Redefine Collaboration,” Forrester Research, Inc., November 30, 2011). Ignore this emerging market and you choose to lose.

Social Media Week is the perfect time for organizations to think about how they can get social and do business at the same time.

Consider just a few of the possibilities of becoming a social business:

Global Collaboration: Extending beyond just document collaboration, social business tools enable organizations to build a team based off their skills, rather than location. Unified communications capabilities allow global teams to collaborate even if they aren’t in the same room (or on the same continent). Actively-managed digital communities of practice provide an opportunity for teams to collaborate and learn on the fly, fostering a greater sense of belonging.  Social organizations can expect to retain more of their best employees as they feel part of a common goal and have a voice in the decision making process.

Mobility: I’ve personally been a mobile employee for nearly a decade – and I’m not alone.  With the mobile workforce expected to reach more than 1.19 billion by 2013, according to research firm IDC, nearly 1 trillion Internet-connected devices will be in market in 2012, generating 20 times more mobile data by 2015. Equipping these employees with social connectivity to collaborate and innovate on the fly has become a major requirement for many organizations. Mobile capabilities for workers that extend beyond email, calendar and voice will be imperative. Document editing, access to enterprise social networking tools, feature-rich data and IM on the go are becoming the new norm. Imagine the opportunities for productivity, innovation and responsiveness when you are part of a team with mobile devices and tablets equipped with social enterprise capabilities.

Social Analytics: Organizations can now integrate and analyze massive amounts of data generated from people, devices and sensors and align these insights to business processes to make faster, more accurate decisions. By gaining deeper insights into customer and market trends and employees’ sentiment over social networking platforms both internally and externally, businesses can uncover critical patterns to not only react swiftly to market shifts, but predict the effect of future actions.

The Currency of Social: People and culture are the drivers for social business success. As consumers have become accustomed to social practices in their personal lives, they are seeking the same capabilities in their workplace. People form networks based on trust and transparency. With social business technology at their finger tips, employees can tap into the creativity, intelligence, and community of their organization to accomplish business goals faster and more efficiently.

The opportunity for social business to transform how we connect people and processes, and increase the speed and flexibility of business is limitless. A successful social business breaks down collaboration barriers and puts social networking in the context of everyday work, from the mobile device or delivery vehicle of your choice, to improve productivity and speed decision-making.

The critical turning point for social business is the realization that the collective knowledge of networks of people can provide businesses with a unique competitive advantage. Social tools are building the next generation of competitive and profitable businesses – and if you’re not latching on to the social movement – you may be doing business with blinders on.

(Originally published in Social business News)

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