Why are Businesses Implementing Social Software?

We recently conducted a social business adoption survey, our second this year, and in reviewing the results we’re seeing some very exciting patterns emerge.

We recently conducted a social business adoption survey, our second this year, and in reviewing the results we’re seeing some very exciting patterns emerge. My colleague, Erin Traudt, who manages the enterprise collaboration and social solutions practice in my group is doing a three part series on our IDC group blog on the whole survey so I won’t redo that effort here. What I want to look at in detail is the question of why. We are seeing rapidly increasing use of social tools and initiatives across a wide range of businesses small to large and in many different verticals. Clearly businesses are starting to see results from these initiatives, and in the near future we’re publishing a ROI study that we have developed collaboratively among a group of analyst inside IDC and other independent IDC partners. Look for more on that publication shortly.

Here are the results from the question of why are businesses doing these social initiatives:

First it’s good to see that building brand awareness has slipped downward, important as more companies move from social marketing initiatives, the place where many started using social tools, to a much more balanced use of social tools across the business. Acquiring and sharing knowledge as #1 and #2, and by a fairly significant margin, is an indication of our increasing reliance on online media and socialized content as an important business intelligence tool. The SCRM message is also obviously gaining momentum as engaging customers in a conversation is now #3 on the list. Seeing conversation listed above brand awareness, a shift away from the initial momentum to try and use social as a customer broadcast system is encouraging and shows growing maturity in my opinion.

The potential for using social tools for internal communication and collaboration also seems to resonate, with internal communication at #5, reinforcing a spreading of enterprise 2.0 concepts. This move to more people centric collaboration is another important factor in gauging overall social business momentum. I think, and have said quite often, that businesses must address their internal silos if they expect to see the kind of real engagement that is possible with social customers.

Possibly the biggest surprise in this question is the growing reliance of businesses on social for decision support. Making decisions at #6 out of 14, with over a quarter of the companies surveyed reporting social as a decision support tool, is a strong indicator to me that businesses are really starting to tap into the power of using social tools. It’s also shows that socialytics technology is advancing and vendors are providing valuable insight to companies that are using these first generation BI tools. As the technology advances and is more widely used companies will see significant ROI from the use of social data to support business decision making processes. The real potential, to use socialytics tools for predictive analytics will open up exciting new and high value business opportunities.

One last observation from this question is the growing use of social on the partner engagement side of business. It’s still early days for this emerging use case, but it appears that companies are starting to extend the use of community and content in other directions beyond customers. I think extending social initiatives to include partners and suppliers has great potential for businesses.