Research Findings Highlight the Evolution of Social Business


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I am proud to release the results of the 2nd annual New Symbiosis of Professional Networks research study by The Society for New Communications Research (SNCR); a benchmark on the impact of social media on enterprise decision-making.

The study is a result of collaboration between me and Vanessa DiMauro as part of our fellowship with SNCR. My colleague at SAP and Senior Fellow at SNCR, Peter Auditore, also contributed to the analysis.

In the first study we focused on professionals’ use of social media—and it all comes back to the strength of the relationship. Human relationships and peer-to-peer decision-making are inherently interrelated. Professional networks facilitate vast interactions, connections, and networks of people by enabling collaboration anywhere and at any time.

Communities of practice, professional networks, social media, email, and SMS are among the tools that enable multi-channel access for individuals (employees, customers, partners, and suppliers).

In this second study, we further examined the role of social media on decision-making among enterprise users and explored the dynamics of trust as well as the value of engagement and collaboration to support decision making and innovation across company operations for internal and external purposes.

Specifically, we sought to explore the following questions:

  • Is social media regarded as a trustworthy source of information for professionals?
  • What do enterprise decision makers value most when interacting with peers through social media and social networks?
  • How do enterprise decision makers use social media to gather information, advice and support peer collaboration; and how do they compare to traditional off-line networking and knowledge share?
  • What tools and sources of social media are relied upon by professionals to make decisions?
  • Will social media change the business and practice of enterprise-level operations (internal and external)?
  • How do business leaders use social media for customer engagement/support; innovation of products and service; employee engagement; strategy development; sales and marketing?
  • What has changed since 2009 in terms of social media usage and trust among professional decision-makers?

The study was supported by quantitative data gathered via online survey of 114 professionals to understand their perceptions and experiences with social media in support of their decision-making.

Key demographics of the research:

  • Close to two in ten (18%) respondents identified themselves as the CEO of their organization, with close to half identifying themselves as a “Director” (20%) or “Manager” (24%).
  • Company size ranged from less than 100 to over 50,000 full-time employees.
  • Age was well distributed with the greatest proportion in the 36-45 range.
  • 10 countries were represented, with 76% of respondents living in the US.
  • All respondents were either the decision makers or influenced the decision maker.

Below are key findings of the research. A presentation of the detailed findings can be found here.

Four key findings from the research include:

  1. Thought Leadership is the new currency of online professional collaboration.
    • Business professionals are changing how they collaborate as a result of online professional communities and peer networks.
    • Social networks have evolved to become knowledge and communication networks.
    • Access to thought leadership content is now the #1 reason why professionals surveyed visit networks and communities.
    • Professionals are collaborating with each other visa vie the thought leadership content they generate, curate or share. No longer is collaboration an experience between a limited number of people.
  2. The sweet spot for professional collaboration in online networks is: 1 to 2 large networks + 1 to 2 niche communities.
    • While nearly all professionals surveyed (97%) use LinkedIn, the use of smaller (niche) professional networks are activity being used to find peers and content specifically related to the work that they do (by role, industry, geography, etc.).
    • Professionals are finding the right mix of large open networks and private communities to support their learning, networking and decision-making activities.
  3. Social Business is starting to happen within professional communities of practice.
    • Professional communities are being used more frequently to inform business strategy and supporting new products and services (much more than in 2009).
    • 80% of respondents are able to accelerate decision process and information/strategy development by participating in communities.
  4. Professionals share and consume quality content within their professional networks as a way of exerting influence.
    • Endorsement (via like, read, share, retweet) is at the center of collaboration in social media communities.
    • “The Crescendo Effect” in social media environments has great impact on the buying decision. High quality content yields transparency and credibility.
    • Professional collaboration is changing from a small professional exchange into an interaction with content in public ways. The consequence of sharing content online = influence.

What does this all mean?

  • Professionals are now using their social media peer groups and online communities as reliable in-puts into their decision-making.
    • 2009-10 was about exploring and experimenting with online relationships whereas 2010-11 is about capitalizing on them.
  • Thought leadership is the professional currency of the future.
    • Professionals and organizations are now being defined by the quality of the content they exchange, curate and create.
    • However, few content creation channels have stood the test of time as there is less content being created as professionals have learned to curate only the best.
  • New rules for collaboration in social media environments emerge.
    • Endorsement is at the center of collaboration in social media communities.
    • The endorsement (via read, share, like, retweet) drives influence that enables better decision making.
  • And, anytime anywhere access to our professional peer groups is a growing necessity.
    • Mobile access to online communities and professional networks is the new norm.
    • Therefore, relationships are more fluid and on-demand as professionals now have the online networking skills to reach the experts they need, when they need them.

Over the coming weeks Vanessa, Peter and I will publish a series of blogs on the key findings of the research to provide readers with additional context, understanding and perspective on how to apply these trends to improve social business engagement strategies.

Stay tuned!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Don Bulmer
Royal Dutch Shell
Don Bulmer is Vice President of Communication Strategy at Royal Dutch Shell.


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