Here are the top-line numbers: Of the more than 900 technology and marketing executives polled for the survey, 97 percent believe it’s important for their organizations to go social. Large operations are leading the way. Forty-six percent of businesses in the 50,000+ employee category say they’re already socially enabled to at least some extent, compared with only about one third of smaller companies with fewer than 5,000 workers.
Perhaps most surprising is that the impetus for business adoption isn't coming only from the lower ranks, but from the C-suite. “One of the greatest things I’ve seen happen in the last 12 months is the increasing number of CEOs who’ve joined social networks like Twitter,” says Erika Brookes, vice president of product strategy for Oracle Social.
And there's another important dynamic in play. The social surge appears to be making kissing cousins out of CIOs and their CMO counterparts in marketing. This is a positive development, beyond the vapid truism that collaboration is good.
A more nuanced observation, which I believe to be true, is that partnering in service of social acceleration gives the lie to recent pictures painted by the blogosphere of tension between IT and marketing. A fraught relationship is a supposed a side effect of credit-card-wielding cloud buyers, who've undercut IT's historical lock on acquisition of computing resources.
The survey doesn't surface any such conflict. To the contrary, it suggests that organizational silos are being broken down. More than two-thirds of the IT and marketing executives surveyed say that increased collaboration within and across their teams makes them more effective in their jobs.
“Executives and departments that have had very different agendas are increasingly realizing they need to come together,” said Brookes. “Finding common ground provides tremendous business benefits. But it requires more than a major change in mindset—how marketing and IT teams share information and operate organizationally has to change.
"As this happens, things start to click and the teams typically want to build on their initial progress. At the same time, they have to realize that collaboration doesn’t become fully baked overnight.”
Unfortunately, there are still too many players sitting on the sidelines. According to the survey, only 36% of marketing professionals and a mere 26% respondents report collaborating frequently.
(In fairness, 57% of marketing and 50% of IT characterized their cross-group collaboration as adequate. OTOH, 16% of the IT respondents reported no collaboration whatsoever with marketing.)
I know what some of you are wondering. In theory, collaboration is wonderful (it’s such a warm and fuzzy word). But are there any demonstrable benefits when IT and marketing put their heads together?
Actually, yes, according to the survey. For one, more compelling marketing messages, according to slightly more than 50% of both groups.
It makes intuitive sense to hear that faster time to market is another result, say 47% of the marketing execs surveyed and 43% of the IT leaders. Since business is business, most significant of all may be the greater customer update of products and services, which 40% of marketing and 42% of IT see resulting from the increasing interaction.
In my mind, the big question is how much of this is support is the tepid embrace of bobbing heads nodding "yes" at a manager's newfound enthusiasm for something their teenager clued them into. Clearly, the challenge ahead is converting lip service into meaningful methodologies for daily usage.
I call this putting the tactical pedal to the conceptual metal. Implementation is important not just because you can’t push out a feed without the software to do so. It’s because many of the folks who “like” social but don’t yet use it could turn out to be fair-weather friends.
Getting it done
So how to proceed? Everyone acknowledges that the move to social takes time. The initial organizational step requires broadening enterprise investment beyond today’s common model of a “social person” who serves as a company’s point of interface with Twitter and Facebook.
“Social is starting to move much more rapidly through organizations, as a result of the voice and power it’s given consumers,” Brookes told me. “We're seeing more and more individuals inside organizations that define their role as bringing the business forward toward social.”
The most ardent social users remain the children of the late 1980s and early 1990s who've been dubbed “Generation C.” Depending on where Google takes you, the "C" variously stands for content, community, creation, connection, and/or consumer. Suffice to say these young'uns are considered "digital natives," because computers—the post-floppy-disk kind—has seemingly worked its way into their DNA.
Paradoxically, their position as early adopters won't help businesses get more social if they simply do function as voices or channels. They need to serve as facilitators, helping to spread best practices throughout organizational structures. (Or, we could just wait a few years until this cohort dominates the workforce.)
They could also help plug some holes. According to Social Media Today, 58 percent of people who’ve tweeted about a bad experience say they hadn’t received a response. Therefore customer service remains an arena ripe for enhanced social uptake.
Social is also a way for businesses to add their voice to the Yelp-like culture of the Web, where everyone weighs in with "reviews" of their experiences. Ammo for this angle comes from a 2009 Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries. It found that 90 percent of consumers surveyed said they trust recommendations from people they know, and 70 percent trusted consumer opinions posted online. (If you trust all the reviews you read online, I have a bridge to sell you.)
Amid this post's flurry of data, are there any nuts-and-bolts takeaways? “I have three recommendations,” Brookes said. “One, get your C-suite involved and on board. Two, find the right technology and tools, so that you can have a single view of the customer. And three, focus on cross-collaboration across departments. No one person owns social—it’s all about becoming a social business."
You can download a white paper on the socially enabled enterprise study here.