Finding the Value in Social Business

  • Gerald C. Kane, Doug Palmer, Anh Nguyen Phillips and David Kiron
  • March 18, 2014

Our new survey results suggest that companies are starting to derive real value from social business tools. But that value is concentrated most strongly in companies that have reached a certain level of sophistication in their social business initiatives.

T-Mobile USA, a provider of wireless voice, messaging and data services based in Bellevue, Washington, started its social business initiatives in much the same way as many other companies — adding a Facebook presence, monitoring mentions on Twitter and engaging with customers on social media. But today, as T-Mobile is changing its business model and business processes — CEO John Legere has moved the company away from long-term contracts for wireless services — social business tools are increasing in importance.

Melissa French, director of marketing systems for T-Mobile, explained that, without longer-term wireless service contracts, “we had to become relevant to our customers every day. And to be relevant, we have to know what they’re saying and how they’re saying it, and what it could mean to us. So that was just an amazing opportunity to relook, rethink. And it really sparked us to open our minds to a different way of doing business. So that’s when we started investigating how social media could get us closer to the customer.”

French and her team are preparing for an integrated future in which systems analyze social media data not only to understand how marketing messages are resonating (both from T-Mobile and its competitors), but also to improve both operations and customer service.

“We believe that we can not only learn valuable information from the sentiment coming in, but we can also use that channel to proactively communicate back out to our customers,” French explained. She envisions a future that includes a different way of engaging with customers and associates as a result of social business tools and the data that are generated by engagement through these tools.

Similar stories echo across our latest research. Companies are starting to derive real value from social business, but this value is concentrated most strongly in companies that have reached a certain level of sophistication in relation to their social business initiatives, which we refer to as social business maturity. We define “social business” broadly to include activities that use social media, social software and technology-based social networks to enable connections between people, information and assets.