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How Social Business Encourages Creativity and Productivity

Illustration by Martin Sati

People, Not Technology

Technology enables social business but it’s not the main focus. “Technology is an enabler, a means of scaling. The problem is that companies are all starting with technology, not people,” Ridings says. “We have to get companies to see that it’s a people problem, not a technology problem.”

Richardson agrees, saying it’s not about buying a piece of technology, installing it and expecting ROI in five years. With social business, the ROI is based on cultural change and how that change introduces new products or ways of doing things. “The biggest concern is Risk of Ignoring,” Richardson adds.

Whether your business is big or small, social business applies to you. Large enterprises might start with a single department, such as marketing, human relations or public relations. Social business is applicable across the entire spectrum of industries—not just knowledge-based businesses—because it promotes creativity and productivity, Richardson explains. For example, people on a production floor could use their smartphones to make videos about a better way to do something and post the videos on a company forum.

In transforming the company, Ridings suggests that you envision what your company would look like as a fully evolved social business and then work backward to map out shorter-term changes that will yield results. “You have to be able to show results in a year to 18 months, because otherwise, execs start to move money somewhere else,” he explains.

Companies are indeed making the change. Forrester Research data shows social business has reached about a 50-50 market penetration with about 50 percent using social business on an enterprise level and the other 50 percent waiting for more evidence. “Not everyone has fully deployed social and has every employee using it. Companies are still working through what is the value, what constitutes the value and what are the hot spots for adoption,” Koplowitz says.

A majority of companies are using social business within marketing and public relations functions, according to a recent study from the IBM Institute for Business Value, “The Business of Social Business: What works and how it’s done.” Social business adoption is expected to grow for customer service and sales functions, the study says.

Industries facing dramatic disruption, such as higher education and healthcare, will benefit the most, Ridings adds. Management also plays a role. “Companies taking a long-term view are going to adopt a social business model,” he says. “If you have a short-term view, you are going to look at technology for a quick fix rather than a part of a solution.”

Companies are seeing the benefits now. An astonishing 57 percent of social businesses outperform their competition, according to an IBM study Other studies show that 84 percent of social enterprises improve sales and partnerships and 90 percent of social enterprises report trackable benefits, says Ridings.

Just as the Internet changed the way companies work, so will social business. If knowledge is power, then sharing knowledge is power with jet fuel. Try it and see how social business can improve your company’s performance, empower employees and improve the bottom line.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at



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