Social Computing and the Changing Face of Business

By | Aug 17, 2012
Topic: CRM/ERP

Over the past few years, the social space has expanded from its birth in the consumer sector and now has the business world solidly in its grasp. A whole new world of customer relationship management (CRM) options are available, but social adopters are finding significant productivity gains, as well. The prevalence and diversity of this technology make it one that IT departments need to be aware of and begin to implement.

Social Computing as a CRM Tool

Aside from marketing, using social networking as a CRM tool is the next most obvious use of the technology, but one that IT departments may be slow to adopt. Old habits die hard, and IT managers may be hesitant to throw away their existing CRM tools—especially if they were expensive tools—for one that fully embraces social media.

Unfortunately, this desire not to waste money already spent could end up costing the company money in the long run. As this Media Post article discusses, a socially enabled CRM tool not only takes care of customers in ways that will wow them, it also opens door for sales and marketing, resulting in a significant ROI across multiple departments.

Social Computing as a Productivity Tool

While social media is an amazing way to communicate with customers, it can also be a powerful tool within the organization. As this USA Today article points out, a number of companies are seeing significant productivity increases when they connected their employees through social media.

These productivity gains from interconnected workers are so staggering that IDC predicts that the social tools market will grow from $767 million in 2011 to $4.5 billion in 2016, a remarkable 40-percent growth each year.

Much of this change is happening in the mid-market, as enterprises are often reluctant to change and many small businesses are too small to see a benefit from connecting employees who may already share a small room. This places midsize businesses in an interesting situation where they can begin to close the gap between enterprise-level results and where they currently are simply by adopting the concept that employee communication is at the heart of a healthy business.

Properly Adding Social to Your Systems

The big question for IT managers at midsize firms is how to go about adopting the social space in the most efficient and productive manner. Simple, basic CRM can be done through the default social platform, and there are inexpensive CRM options out there that integrate the major social networks into a universal platform that's easier to use.

However, once a company's social CRM begins to grow, it's time to move to a dedicated CRM platform that's built to expand as the social space does. Social media is only important when there are a large number of people using the service, and when people change from one site to the next, a solid social CRM solutions needs to have predicted the switch and position the business to succeed in the new social space.

When it comes to using social for employee productivity, things get a little more complicated. Obviously IT managers can't use public media for internal communication, so a completely enclosed solution needs to be there from the start.

Despite the simplicity of the concept, IT managers need to really shop around for the right solution and avoid just going with the cheapest or building the solution in-house. If an employee is given a communications tool that looks like a BBS from 1991, no matter how amazingly connected it is, the employee will never touch it. On top of naturally important things like simplicity and reliability, aesthetics matter when it comes to software, and when it comes to social software, the number of users willing to use the service matters far more than any features or functions.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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