Social business and the valley of disinterest

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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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