5 Comments

Summary:

Finding ways to put social tools to work in business has been high on the agenda for many organizations, but new research reveals not all firms are equally interested in the idea. The very small and very large are far more interest than mid-sized companies.

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With the rise of consumer social media and the untethering of work from a fixed geographic location, interest in ways to put social tools to work in the enterprise has been on the rise. A host of business-specific collaboration offerings from Yammer to Rypple are aiming to capture the interest of firms, while nearly every business is trying to figure out how to best utilize the likes of Facebook and Twitter. But are all companies equally engaged in figuring out how to do social?

Recent research that MIT Sloan Management Review conducted in collaboration with Deloitte reveals a striking pattern, according to an intriguing post in MIT Sloan’s Improvisations blog. When asked whether they believed social business was important, those at the biggest and smallest firms showed the greatest interest, with a steep fall off in interest among those at mid-sized organizations. Here are the percentage of respondents who agreed with the importance of social business by company size:

  • Less than 1,000 employees: 21.2 percent
  • 1,000-5,000 employees: 13.6 percent
  • 5,000 – 10,000: 13.6 percent
  • 10,00-100,000: 12.1 percent
  • More than 100,000: 21.2 percent

Why might this be? The post speculates that, “social tools enable smaller organizations to appear bigger, and larger companies to appear ‘smaller’ — more accessible, responsive, and nimble,” noting that 31 percent of the smallest firms thought these tools were important to growing revenue, a much higher percentage than at larger companies. Gerald Kane, a professor at Boston College, suggests this may be because smaller firms can use social tools “as a way of increasing their voice, as a way of connecting with customers.” The analysis of the findings in ongoing, according to the post, and the final results will be published sometime this spring, so those who are interested should keep their eyes open for the full report.

In the meantime, what’s your reaction to these initial results – are mid-sized firms underestimating the potential benefits of social or are these tools really of less value to businesses of this size?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Nicholas_T.

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  1. Mike Sheridan Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    Interesting stats Jessica. I think you’re right, smaller organizations see a strong social presence as a way to narrow the gap with their larger competitors while larger companies can get caught up in the perceived dangers of social vs. the benefits. One think to expand on here is the idea that social business can be viewed as not just social technology in the enterprise but can also be looked at as social empowerment of the employee. Letting employees use the tools like information acquisition in real time, crowdsourcing decisions, contextual intelligence, and knowledge sharing that they use in their personal lives, in ways that creates deeper customer engagement and customer satisfaction in their company lives.

    Mike Sheridan
    Aspect
    @MikeonUC

  2. Although social only now seems to making a mark, companies have been harnessing it’s power over the past 10-15 years…since the internet has come into existence. And yes. Absolutely social media gives voice to smaller companies and allows them to give the appearance of being a larger company. I’ve run a small business for 10 years and can speak to these kind of results. Social media is an amazing and powerful medium and it’s about time that people start taking notice!

    Jocelyn Aucoin
    WorkSimple

  3. Aurelian Sonea Friday, April 6, 2012

    of course that small companies will always try to appear larger and better market entrants and do it primarily because of social tools, and some of them even do this and become a power market

  4. I was just participating at the Sales 2.0 conference in San Francisco which was all about social in the enterprise (social selling to be specific). What really struck is me is how early it still is for social in the enterprise. I guess these numbers support it. More important than the difference between the large/small and medium companies is in my mind that apparently 80%-90% of enterprise do NOT think social business is important. So while in Silicon Valley it sometimes feels that the social race is over, truthfully in enterprise it is only just beginning. I wrote a blog about it where I expand on this idea and six things enterprises could do with social selling today: http://bit.ly/Hj8WZ0.

  5. Vaughan Rivett Friday, May 11, 2012

    Thanks for your post and for sharing those statistics with us. I am interested in how the uptake of ‘social’ seems to be with the extreme ends of the market, either smaller or larger. Based on the businesses I talk to I would expect that ‘social’ means different things according to the maturity of a company.

    A smaller company may see social as being a cost effective way of marketing and engaging with customers and emerging markets. To them this is commonly where ‘social business’ starts and ends.

    A larger company typically has a different view. While the smaller company has a focus on external engagement, the larger companies will also have an internal strategy. For instance, engaging employees more effectively, gaining social trust within the organisation, aligning business goals with social, incorporating social into its processes etc.

    I like your use of the word ‘nimble’. This is probably the strongest characteristic of a social business. It is the differentiator which provides the competitive advantage, allowing companies to be more innovative while reducing costs and increasing customer satisfaction.

    You might be interested in reading a recent post of mine, maybe not my post, but more so the comments left be someone called Aroha. Aroha provides a reality check when it comes to human interaction. For a ‘social business’ it is much more than the way we use technology, it is all about people. People don’t do business with businesses, they do business with people. http://bit.ly/IYW6RJ

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