I’ve had a number of people contact me since my “Social Business: 4 factors to ensure you get it right” was published…the general tone of the requests have been:

“Yes, get what you say but we need something more concrete to get our CEO, CIO, GM over the line…We need a business case for social…”

Yep, you do.  So in the spirit of helping out, I’ve been trawling the web to find supporting evidence – surveys; studies, reports from the last 24 months that will assist.  To be honest, there’s not a lot out there by way of statistical evidence[1], and the caveat on this is a lot of the sources are vendor based – and therefor, even if using an independent research company, will have a vested interest.  But, trust me on this, by the time that independent academic empirical research is conducted, peer reviewed and published it will be way too late for you to get “social”. All over, Red Rover.

19/03/12 Update: Bookmark this link from the researchers at INSEAD on their research on how social networks inform competitive advantage (1000 executives surveyed). Thanks Linda Johannesson

03/04/12 Update: New report on www.jeffbullas.com states there is a 400% greater impact for companies that are socially engaged as opposed to those who are not.


It’s important to note though, “Getting Social” is more than just opening up the firewalls for facebook and twitter. As Cheryl Burgess says on her recent article “The Rise of Social Business is broader than facebook-twitter-linkedin-google+ combined”

To achieve this, successful businesses must align their core goals and objectives in cross-enterprise collaboration and create a socially integrated organizational blueprint that focuses on people and culture.

To that point, and some-what tangentially, Hays Group have published the 20111  World’s Most Admired Companies report. Based on 15 years of data, this is good for you in that it shows that companies that score high on WMAC, generate better shareholder returns than peers. It provides you with 15 companies to benchmark against – and clearly signals that investment in people and the development of a strong positive culture is key to achieving Most Admired. (Hint, in the old days, investing in people was called “social”). Simply put, business strategy was better communicated to managers and employees in the WMAC, than in the peers.

Key aspects of the cultures that promote WMAC include agility, innovation, growth, collaboration. Other gems include:

  • 91 percent of WMACs regularly reach out to employees for ideas on how to improve efficiency
  • 89 percent of WMACs ensure employee skills keep pace with job demands

Jive Software has produced a strong case for social business, breaking down the key benefits into Employee Engagement and Customer Engagement. Published in Dec 2010, and based on a sample size of 500 people engaged in organisations using collaborative software they state:

Employee Engagement Benefits include:

•    39 percent increase in employee connectedness;
•    32 percent more ideas generated and captured;
•    30 percent in employee satisfaction;
•    27 percent less email;
•    32 percent reduction in time to find answers; and
•    37 percent increase in project collaboration and productivity.

Customer Engagement Benefits include:

•    42 percent more communication with customers;
•    31 percent increase in customer retention;
•    34 percent higher brand awareness;
•    28 percent decrease in support call volume;
•    34 percent more feedback and ideas from customers; and
•    27 percent increase in new customer sales.

Dion Hinchcliffe very usefully provides an aggregate summary of industry research coming his way (the Jive survey included) and synthesises the research with three key points.

  1. Workers can find the information and people they need faster with social tools.
  2. Communication overhead in legacy platforms shrinks when social tools are deployed.
  3. There is a correlation between increased marketshare and socially networked organizations.

Pro tip: If you are a communications professional who is struggling to gain buy in with your IT department it would pay to bookmark / follow Hinchcliffe’s content. He writes from a technology perspective, but with a very accessible business tone. His work will help you to understand your technology colleagues better and use language that is shared.

Cisco have produced a Social Media White Paper based on the research by three leading business schools in 2009. It was a qualitative piece, so no stats to show off, but with global audience and 97 companies in the mix it is rich in case study vignettes, perfect to pepper a C Suite presentation with! Their interviews suggest that the value in social business can be segmented by function eg

  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Human Resources
  • Supply Relationship Management (SRM)
  • Product Development and Innovation
  • Service Delivery

IBM provide a wealth of resources on social business, and these are supported by statistical data.

For example some of the benefits are noted as:

Help employees be more effective

  • An insurance organization saw a boost of 25 percent more policies written with 40 percent fewer staff through real-time access to information and experts.
  • An emergency services worker increases response time by 400% with real-time awareness.

Improve the quality and speed of operations

  • A global manufacturer brought a new product to market in one third the normal time.
  • An insurance company reduced time to market for new services by 50% and achieved 100% growth in new business.

Engage customers more deeply

  • A leading bank experienced a 35 percent improvement in marketing campaign revenue.
  • A healthcare provider experienced 33 percent fewer cancelled appointments when patients used online services.
  • An international sporting event experienced 23 percent annual growth in online fan traffic.

For an additional good read, have a look at the interview on Fast Company with IBM’s Senior Manager of Digital and Social Strategy interview with Drew Nisser on how IBM are learning from their own experiences with Social Business.

Locally, the social media rockstars from Deloitte Digital, have got a lot of airplay (and deservedly so) with their report “Participation, Communication, Transformation”. Their blog is one to keep on top of with regular posts on innovation, social media and corporate life. IN the report you will find findings from a Deloitte Touche LLP report from April 2009 that will assist, as will the indepth case study report on how they have used social media within. Let’s face it folks, if accountants can adopt social media and benefit who can’t?

Of course, a journey around the vendor white papers would be remiss without an offering from McKinsey and Co. In their global survey of 1695 executives in 2009, it was reported that 69% found measurable business benefits in adopting web2.0 technologies. In their most recent June 2011 study, now with over 4000 respondents they launch a nifty interactive feature that compares the five years of research and business benefits. It’s awesome stuff! It also looks like with the increase in sample size we are now seeing some flattening out of the business benefits which is a positive development eg less hype from super users, more realistic data across multiple organisations.

Of course, from a selfish standpoint the really big omission here is a dedicated focus on the business benefits of social with organisational change. But maybe that is because the overall context is organisational change eg “getting social” is a major transition. This post won’t tell you how to make that transition, but it should provide you with the resources to assist you in making the business case for “Getting Social”.  For that, you’ll probably need some-one with change management expertise and a deep understanding of internal and external communication. There’s a few of us around who can help you with that ; – )



[1] Having said that if you have a study I should know about, please let me know and I’m happy to update and attribute!

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