Clear the confusion, it’s time to grow (social)

Recent market studies by analyst firms such as Ovum and IDC are showing that enterprise social has moved out of its experimental stage and into its growth phase. This has led to lot of buzz in the media about how it is ‘now time to take enterprise social seriously!’ while a lot of folk in the business world shrug their shoulders and say they have been doing that anyway. However, it highlights a very good point: while the market for collaboration software is maturing, it is important that companies’ perceptions of "business social" evolve alongside it.

We know that enterprise social technology is a valuable asset for businesses. If used effectively to facilitate internal collaboration it can drive innovation as well as provide unprecedented service to customers. Conversely, if deployed without a direction, purpose or goal in mind, it simply comes across as the head of a business leaping on the zeitgeist. "Facebook for businesses" is such a catchy phrase, how could it not work?

At Moxie, we see a clear purpose for enterprise social: to support the social customer and their needs. So we see the most effective deployments of enterprise social software are those businesses that embrace it as a means to meet a core business goal: improving customer experience. It’s a point worth driving home repeatedly: social business is a tool whose greatest asset is its ability to harness internal knowledge to support customers and help them find the right answers to their questions faster.

In all too many cases, people think that getting set up on social media is all it takes to create a working, interactive and effective customer service system. Businesses should be aware that, although social networks like communities are an excellent way for customers to speak amongst themselves, companies must also do their part to listen to and interact with such communities. In a continuous effort to capture the minds and hearts of the socially-connected customer, enterprise social technology can be the perfect asset for companies to create tighter relationship with its customers.

A word of caution: with a social-heavy mindset companies run the risk of creating a social media silo, set apart from the more traditional channels, which are still most used by millions of customers worldwide. Companies can’t neglect the customers who use emails, phone calls and even that most archaic device, the letter. Social must be integrated with all the other channels and function in balance with them.

Reports show that enterprise social technology, while maturing, is still in the early-adopter stage. A blossoming concept requires time to get used to and it is understandable that not all businesses are ready to exploit the technology to its full capability. But it’s important to remember that your businesses and your customers have always been "social" – it’s just the method that’s new. So if your enterprise is to grow, it must be driven by purposeful social on the inside and the outside. With this rapidly evolving technology enterprises are becoming increasingly better equipped to do just that.

Tom Kelly is the President and CEO of enterprise social software company Moxie Software. He is a leading authority on achieving business results through collaborative innovation. He's helped hundreds of global organizations change the way they create value and compete.

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