SPONSORED FEATURE
THE BLOG

Social Networking is a Business Imperative

11/01/2011 09:30 am ET | Updated Dec 25, 2011

The data is clear: social business propels results. Fifty seven percent of companies who invest in social business outperform their peers. They see real business value, whether it's a 25% increase in business or a 20% drop in the time it takes to manage projects.

Social business is no longer "nice to do," it's a necessity to survive today's volatile business climate. But many are still asking, "What does social business really mean?"

Companies are increasingly adopting social media technologies, using Facebook to reach out to customers or YouTube to demonstrate new products. These are good first steps, but there is so much more that "social" has to offer. Social media is just one dimension of today's social business. Social Business is about moving beyond the social media tools you're currently familiar with to unlock the potential of the people in an organization to gain a competitive advantage. Today, by combining social networking tools - internally and externally - with sophisticated analytic capabilities, companies are transforming their business processes, building stronger relationships among their employees, customers and business partners and making better decisions, faster. This is what makes a social business - embracing networks of people to create new business value and opportunities.

Industry-leading companies, including CEMEX and Lowe's Home Improvement, are experiencing the real value of social networking in the workplace.

To meet business challenges, CEMEX had to bring its global community closer together, so it created a social network initiative, called Shift, for open collaboration across its entire workforce. Within a year, over 20,000 employees were engaged, over 500 communities had formed, and nine global innovation initiatives were underway. Ideas started flowing around the world among specialists in all areas and levels of the company. Wikis, blogs and communities became links between operating units around the world, and the collaboration among employees led to impressive results -- for instance, the launch in under four months of the first global brand of CEMEX's Ready Mix special product. If the same level of collaboration now enabled by Shift were conducted today through traditional meetings by phone and travel, CEMEX would be spending an additional half to one million dollars per year.

Lowe's has a similar story. The retailer on-boarded 100% of its employees to its collaborative platform last year - that's 289,000 employees - every executive, store manager and retail clerk, on the payroll. It's already paying off. One enterprising employee, for example, used the social business tools to demonstrate the ease of cleaning a Teflon paint tray product and request more inventory. As a result, Lowe's realized more than a million dollars in additional revenue for that product alone.

What's keeping other companies from following CEMEX's and Lowe's lead?

We've always been social beings. Social media has just amped up these natural tendencies. With the introduction and adoption of social technologies and new cultural guidelines, the enterprise, and business as we know it, is changing. Social business, like the PC or the mainframe or the Internet, is reshaping work and quickly separating the winners from the losers. Can you afford to be left behind?

For more on why social networking is a business imperative, click here, and join the conversation at @IBMSocialBiz on Twitter.