Key Findings

This is part 2 of 12 from “Social Business: What Are Companies Really Doing?” a report on the findings of the 2012 Social Business Global Executive Study and Research Project.

Social Business Matters Today — and Will Matter Even More Tomorrow

A majority of respondents (52%) to our survey believe that social business is important or somewhat important to their business today. Fully 86% of managers believe social business will be important or somewhat important in three years. Social business is viewed most often as a tool for external-facing activities.

  • Survey respondents say marketing, sales and customer service are most responsible for driving social software use in their organizations.
  • On average, respondents say the most important use of social software is for managing customer relationships.
  • The second most important use of social software is to innovate for competitive differentiation.

Key takeaways: Managers surveyed believe that social software will become increasingly important to their organizations during the next few years. Although most managers continue to view social software as an externally facing activity, its relevance to innovation is also being recognized.

Some Leaders Are Enthusiastic, but Lack Metrics to Prove Value

Most respondents to our survey believe that successful social business activities require leadership but acknowledge that their organizations are not measuring social software use.

  • In our survey, leadership and a clear vision are cited most frequently as critical to adoption of social software. Lack of management support is cited most frequently as the biggest barrier to adoption.
  • At the same time, the most common answer to the question, “How do you measure social software use?” is: Do Not Measure.
  • Leaders most responsible for the strategic direction of an organization — CEOs, presidents and managing directors — are almost twice as likely as CIOs and CFOs to say that social business is important to their organization.

Key takeaways: Social business depends on leadership. Metrics may not be critical when companies are experimenting with using social software, but as social software use becomes more important to an organization, having metrics in place can help managers assess, encourage and reward related behaviors. These metrics may be even more important in organizations that need to shift their cultures to be more compatible with social business. In addition, while the survey results indicate that social business depends on leadership, our interviews indicate that leadership can be improved with social business. CEOs may recognize this more than other members of the C-suite.

Size Matters

Respondents from small and large companies say social business is important to their organization at twice the rate of managers from midsize companies.

  • To back their social business activities, both small companies (those with fewer than 1,000 employees) and large companies (those with more than 100,000 employees) tend to have stronger management support for social business initiatives than do midsize companies.
  • Over time, the gap between small, midsize and large companies may narrow. When managers were asked about the importance of social business to their organization three years from today, there was little difference between how these groups view the future importance of social business.

Key takeaways: With social tools, small companies are demonstrating that they can appear larger than their actual size; large companies can appear less like corporate behemoths. Midsize companies see the advantages of social tools but, in general, do not see themselves exploiting these advantages for another few years.

Media and Tech Are Leading the Way

Based on our findings, social business is thriving in at least two industry sectors: entertainment, media and publishing (Media) and IT and technology (Tech).

  • In the Media industries, 74.9% of managers say that social software is important or somewhat important to their companies today.
  • In the Tech industries, 65.9% of managers say that social software is important or somewhat important to their companies today.
  • Managers who are least likely to say social software is important are from the energy and utilities, manufacturing and financial services industries.
  • However, respondents from these industries say that social software will become much more important in three years.

    • Energy and Utilities: 7.1% of respondents in this industry say social software is important today, but 46.8% say social software will be important in three years.
    • Manufacturing: 9% of respondents in this industry say social software is important today, but 50% say social software will be important in three years.
    • Financial Services: 10.4% of respondents in this industry say social software is important today, but 58.4% say social software will be important in three years.

Key takeaways: Some industries are seeing more value from social tools than other industries. But even managers in industries that place a lower value on social business believe social tools will become much more valuable over time. Energy and utilities, manufacturing and the financial services sectors expect that social business will become five to six times more important to their organizations in three years.


1. As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte Consulting LLP and Deloitte Services LP, which are separate subsidiaries of Deloitte LLP. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

2. Source: MIT Sloan Management Review interview with David Sacks, CEO of Yammer, February 24, 2012.

3. Social media is how people get together virtually to accomplish outcomes. Social software is the set of tools that gives people in a social network the means for automation, virtualization, scale and abstraction. Social networks are formal descriptions of groups of people who congregate in a social medium.

4. Not all social business activities will produce mutually useful connections between individuals. In some cases, it may be beneficial to diminish certain connections between staff or with some customers. Further, the use of emergent communication and collaboration tools like Yammer may one day become part of the baseline. When that happens, using these tools may cease to qualify as a social business activity as we’re defining it, not because they are any less social but because they no longer “amplify” connections.

5. D.M. Smith et al., “Predicts 2010: Social Software Is an Enterprise Reality,” Gartner, December 3, 2009.

6. A. McAfee, “What Sells CEOs on Social Networking,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring, 2012,

7. Other uses of “social business” might refer to organizations or to economic systems that promote some notion of social welfare. For an example of the latter, see M. Yunus, “Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs” (New York: Public Affairs, 2010).

8. See F. Gossieaux and E. Moran, “The Hyper-Social Organization: Eclipse Your Competition by Leveraging Social Media” (New York: McGraw Hill, 2010); and A.J. Bradley and M. McDonald, “The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees” (Cambridge: Harvard Business Review Press, 2011).

9. E. Deci and R. Ryan, “Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior” (New York: Plenum, 1985).

10. This example comes from an interview with Fergus Griffin, senior vice president for solutions marketing at Additional detail was sourced from:

11. G. Tay, “Ask Five Questions to Determine Whether to Deploy Social Software Bottom-Up or Top-Down,” Gartner Research, January 20, 2011,

12. P.F. Drucker, “The Practice of Management” (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1954), 37.

13. Of course, social business activities can be valuable in many ways. It is our belief that social business activities in these four areas have the potential to generate substantial value.

14. E. von Hippel, S. Ogawa and J.P.J. de Jong, “The Age of the Consumer-Innovator,” MIT Sloan Management Review 53, no. 1 (fall 2011): 27-35.

15. S. Nambisan and P. Nambisan, “How to Profit from a Better ‘Virtual Customer Environment’,” MIT Sloan Management Review (spring 2008): 53-59. For an analysis of Threadless and social media, see D. Hinchcliffe and P. Kim, “Social Business by Design: Transformative Social Media Strategies” (San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons, 2012).

16. This example is based on Y.M. Antorini, A.M. Muñiz, Jr. and T. Askildsen, “Collaborating With Customer Communities: Lessons From the Lego Group,” MIT Sloan Management Review 53, no. 3 (spring 2012): 73-79.

17. J. Hagel, “Pull Platforms for Performance,” February 20, 2012,

18. T. Levitt, “Marketing Myopia,” Harvard Business Review, September/October 1975.

19. Providing clear guidance about communications external to a business can be tricky, especially in regulated industries like health care and financial services. Too much guidance can put a damper on social business activities. “If I ask an organization for their social media policy, and I get back a 50-page document,” says MIT’s Andrew McAfee, “that might as well just say, we’d prefer it if you don’t use social media.” Even in unregulated industries, too much oversight can cast a shadow on innocent interactions. Babson College’s Keri Pearlson describes a recent meeting with a colleague and two representatives from a large technology firm. Her colleague tweeted that she and Pearlson were at a lunch meeting, naming the firm but not the individuals. When the representatives returned to work, the office was buzzing about who was speaking without authorization about the company. Staff had been monitoring information flows from Twitter about the company and had seen the tweet from Pearlson’s colleague.

20. M. Miller, A. Marks and M. DeCoulode, “Social Software for Business Performance: The Missing Link in Social Software — Measurable Business Performance Improvements,” Deloitte Center for the Edge, 2011.

21. M. White and B. Briggs, “Tech Trends 2012: Elevate IT for Digital Business,” Deloitte, 2012: 5.