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How to Stay Competitive as Your Industry Goes Social [Social Business Study]

Written by Joshua Paul | on January 25, 2013 at 8:30 AM

Study: Social Software's Importance in Your Business Will Grow 45% in the Next 3 Years

The Importance of Online Communities and Other Social Software - Social Business StudyExecutives must walk a tight rope on social software. It is true that there is a lot of hyperbole around social strategies. It is also a reality that businesses which don't embrace online community platforms and other social software will get left behind. Your customers expect to be able to engage you in customer communities. You competitors are rapidly researching and implementing social business strategies as well. Where does that leave your organization?

MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte recently unveiled the results of a new social business strategy study. The data from the 3,500 respondents in 24 separate industries asked how shifts in social norms and use of social media in politics have impacted the use of social software in how they do business.

Though the study highlighted that many businesses are getting value from social software today, we are just at the beginning of the journey toward realizing the tangible value of social software, like online community platforms.

Only 18% of the respondents indicated that social software plays an important role in their business today. However, 63% of the people surveyed said that social software will be important to their business in three years.

As Tim Hood put it in his analysis of the study, there are four ways that businesses in your industry will increasingly create value using social community software:

  • Marketing and customer relationships
  • Thought Leadership and getting your point of view into the marketplace
  • Operations (e.g. customer support)
  • Innovation

The emergence of social community strategies is an evolving process. However, there will come a time when your customers, partners, and others in your industry are moving quickly and may pass you by. Given these competing time lines, how can you keep up with the pull to understand the ever-changing opportunities and challenges of social communities, along with the need to take action?

The MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte research provides some answers.

3 Ways to Stay Ahead of You Industry as It Goes Social

Keep Leadership Educated

Continue to educate your executive team about how social software is being applied in your company and market. Provide clear ideas for implementing your social business strategy, but try to avoid pushing too hard to get sign-off right away if you encounter resistance. However, keep your eye on the calendar and use stories from your customers and solid business cases to get management to act when the time comes.

Look for Quick Wins

Find places in your organization where you can integrate and analyze social data in your current environment. Your online customer community does not need to boil the ocean from the start. Find a product user group or specific customer segment that would benefit from fuller access to support and the ability to collaborate with partners, employees, and other customers to solve problem. Roll out a small, focused community to this group.

It will give your organization the experience of planning, launching, and growing a social customer community, without the stress of managing all customers in a community environment all at once. Starting with a small online customer community also serves as a quick win to help you and your management team tout the benefits and achievability of your social business strategy to others in the company.

Start Building Community Now

Online customer communities take time to grow to the point where they provide overt benefits to your business. You can't decide to implement a private customer community today and see the benefits next month. Growing and nurturing an online customer community takes months and possibly years.

Create an online community where customers, employees, and partners get value now. Your organization will reap the strategic and tactical benefits that come with social software. Once you have a community that your stakeholders rely on, you can implement plans to derive specific business value, such as innovation or a more extensive customer advocacy program.

Social Software Takeaway

The strength of your organization's community will be one of the most important factors in your company's success of the next 5 years. While 18% of executives said that social software is important to their business today, that number jumps 45 points to 63% when asked if social software will be important in three years.

This data comes from your customers, your partners, and your competitors. This is your market.

Now, think about your business and your customers. Ask yourself, what other business strategy will rise in importance as much as this over the next few years? Crickets.

Tips for developing a great online customer community strategy.

Topics: Customer Communities, B2B Communities, Customer Engagement, Online Community

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