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Social Technologies: More than Just Marketing

We often write here about the potential of social networks as a marketing and e-commerce tool for SMBs. Whether it’s Facebook, Google +, or Pinterest, they all provide SMB owners with an easy and economical platform to market their products and manage their relationship with clients. However, we have not yet touched on the potential of social technologies in other contexts, such as inter-organizational processes.

A recent study conducted by McKinsey & Company attempts to shed light on the value and productivity opportunity of social technologies for organizations. The researchers suggest that “across industries, there is growing interest in social technologies as a means to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of internal operations, to better collaborate with outside partners and to raise the productivity of interaction workers.” They find that “externally networked” and “fully networked” organizations report improvement in internal benefits (8 percent and 26 percent, respectively), customer benefits (13 percent and 21 percent), and partner benefits (11 percent and 24 percent). This is in contrast to “developing” or “internally networked” companies, which report minimal improvement if any.

McKinsey & Co. identifies ten value-creating applications of social networking in organizations, some internal and some external. This post will introduce a few internal applications that I found the most relevant and interesting.

Co-Creation: Social technologies are ideal platforms for crowdsourcing and knowledge sharing. Through social networks, businesses in the same industry or ones that sell complimentary products can create their own sharing communities designed to facilitate knowledge and resource sharing. Moreover, due to the openness and dynamism of these social platforms, companies can open and close to outsiders when needed.

Demand Forecasting: Social networks can be utilized to improve distribution efficiency and responsiveness. Through information shared on social networks by clients and supply chain partners, companies can track and respond to shifts in demand more accurately. Also, monitoring social-media buzz regarding certain products can serve as an early warning sign for companies and help them prepare for the changes to come.

Matching Talent to Roles: Professional social networks such as LinkedIn allow business owners to better assess candidates and get a comprehensive understanding of their experience and expertise. Through professional social networks, the employer can learn about the candidate’s skills, read what colleagues have written about the candidate, and examine his or her business networks and connections.

Collaboration and Communication: Social technology tools allow coworkers to communicate and collaborate smoothly, saving time on unneeded face-to-face interactions. If coworkers are located remotely from each other and have never actually met, these platforms allow them to collaborate on all business tasks while creating a personal connection. Many companies use social networks as a main communication tool instead of emailing and utilize them for internal-knowledge sharing and team building.

I hope this gave you a glimpse into other ways social technologies can be incorporated into your day-to-day business operations.

Based on: Chui, Michael, James Manyika, et al. “The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies.” McKinsey Global Institute. (2012): n. page. Web. 13 May. 2013.

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