McKinsey Weighs In on the Future of the Social Economy


Share on LinkedIn

Despite the popularity of social media with businesses, new research from McKinsey suggests that businesses are leaving value on the table, to the tune of billions of potential dollars. When McKinsey released new research this July on the changing face of the social economy dubbed ‘The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies‘, we eagerly devoured it. We present some of the key takeaways from the report below:

Adoption and Benefits

The report revealed fascinating figures around social media adoption and business benefits realized. Consumers have adopted social technologies, defined as products and services that enable social interactions in the digital realm, at an unprecedented speed and scale. In fact, social technologies have been adopted at a faster rate than any other media technology. While it took commercial television 13 years to reach 50 million households and Internet service providers three years to sign 50 million subscribers, it took Facebook just a year to hit 50 million users and Twitter – a total of nine months.


However, while 70% of companies use social technologies, only 3% report deriving substantial benefit from this usage across all stakeholders – customers, employees, and business partners. More broadly, 90% of those companies who use social technologies report some business benefit from them. It’s clear here that businesses can better leverage social technologies to drive more value from their investments.

Influence on Social Commerce

McKinsey reports that up to 1/3 of consumer spending is subject to influence from social shopping. This growth indicates the almost primal appeal of social technologies, which bring speed, scale, and economics of the Internet to social interactions. Consumers can now rapidly search for, find and compare various offerings for their needs. Combine that information transparency with the ability to garner peer feedback on potential purchases and you develop a very attractive market for online shopping.

Economic Impact of Social Technologies: $900 Billion to $1.3 Trillion

McKinsey identified ten specific ways where social technologies can add value to businesses. These value-added levers include:

  • Product development – Use social technologies to derive customer insights and co-create product
  • Marketing and sales – Use social technologies to derive customer insights; for marketing communications and interactions; to generate and foster sales leads; social commerce
  • Customer service – Use social technologies to provide customer care

McKinsey estimates that the use of social technologies can contribute $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in value (based on estimates across four industry sectors), with $500 billion added from marketing, sales and after-sales support activities. Specifically, consumer goods companies, with their dependence on brand recognition, can use social technologies across all value chain steps to recognize margin increases of as much as 60%. McKinsey cautions that simply shifting advertising and consumer insights budgets to social media will not suffice; advocating instead for well-planned and well-executed programs which incorporate non-social components such as mass media to capture the potential value of social technologies.

Truly capturing the business value will be a challenge for most enterprises, as they will have to transform their organizational structures, processes, and cultures to become “extended networked enterprises.” Extended networked enterprises connect both internally as well as externally with customers and partners. For these technologies to deliver value, enterprises must embrace information sharing and create cultures of trust and cooperation.

Business Opportunities

The McKinsey study also highlights areas in which business can use social technologies to improve. For instance, many companies have found these social technologies can generate rich consumer insights cheaper and faster than traditional methods. Companies are tapping into what consumers do and say to one another on social platforms, gathering unfiltered feedback and behavioral data (e.g. do people who like this movie like that brand of soft drink?).

Additionally, leveraging of social platforms provides the potential to tap the great “cognitive surplus” of society by using leisure time for creating content and collaboration, rather than consuming. McKinsey refers to the growth of self-publishers and video creators, who add their own content to the social sphere.

Beyond 2012

As we move beyond 2012, we expect to see companies further leveraging emerging social technologies to drive distinct and measureable business value. We believe marketers will use social marketing to identify new prospects based on sophisticated monitoring, profile collection and social scoring.

What do you think? How will your company and industry approach social to drive increased value in the years ahead? Tell us on Twitter.

Mike Lewis


Mike Lewis
Mike is an entrepreneur and marketing executive with a 14-year track record of success as a senior manager at early-stage technology companies. He is currently the vice president of marketing and sales for Awareness Inc., an enterprise social media management platform


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here