by Kathy Barton, Senior VP of Social CRM
For some time we’ve been talking about how slow B2B businesses have been to adopt social media. Well, after a slow start, big business is getting on the bandwagon. Forrester Research predicts that sales of social community software will grow 61% a year and be a $6.4 billion business by 2016. A survey by McKinsey & Co. revealed that two-thirds of large companies now use tools such as social networks or blogs, with the use of internal social communities up 50% since 2008. Heavy use of social tools has a statistically significant correlation to profitability, according to Michael Chui, senior fellow at the McKinsey Global Institute.
Companies are moving beyond using Facebook and Twitter to build brand and drive awareness to using Facebook-type tools to build teams, increase internal communication and reduce time to market. It is hard to underestimate the value of a language, tool set and navigation that is constructed with the goal of sharing information. These tools and concepts now seem intuitive to users because they are accustomed to using them. One of the greatest obstacles to classic knowledge management and business intelligence systems has always been user adoption. Facebook has largely overcome that obstacle for social media tools through sheer ubiquity. B2B companies are suddenly achieving long-standing goals around knowledge sharing, team productivity and rapid product development by leveraging social communities internally. In addition, they are using social communities in concert with their customers to rapidly incorporate customer feedback into the product design cycle.
Whatever happens with Facebook long-term, the company has changed the way that people communicate with each other. Businesses are starting to realize that, far from being something to fear or guard against, this new technology may be the solution to long-standing company challenges. After all, companies are composed of people, and a technology that is designed to encourage and enhance communication and connections between people has business uses that we are only now beginning to explore.