This is part 1 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.

The rapid adoption of technology-based social networking has been transforming politics and social norms on a global scale for the past decade. Will social networking and social software have a similarly transformative effect on business? Are they already doing so? What kinds of enterprises are benefiting the most? And how are they benefiting?

To answer these questions, MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte1 conducted a survey of managers from companies in 115 countries and 24 industries. We had 3,478 respondents to our questionnaire. They represented a wide range of management roles (from coordinators to board directors), functional areas and business sizes.

We supplemented the analysis of our survey results with interviews with thought leaders and business executives, as well as a review of recent research on social business. Our in-depth interviews included conversations with senior managers from companies at the cutting edge of social business practice, including McDonald’s, IBM,, SAP and Yammer.

Although enterprises have only just begun to embrace social business, many leaders — especially in the media and technology industries — are enthusiastic about its value. Others are more cautious but recognize its potential a few years out. Our survey points to marketing and innovation as key areas for capturing value, while our interviews suggest that operations and leadership stand to benefit as well. To capture this value, companies should consider taking steps to ensure that their leaders and culture are aligned with the new opportunities.

We conclude with considerations for how to put social business to work in your enterprise. Leaders need to recognize that social business:

  • Adds value far beyond marketing;
  • Needs leadership support to gain traction in the organization;
  • Can deliver benefits to leadership via strategic insight and strategic execution.

We hope that this report provides executives food for thought as they consider how to incorporate social business activities into their organization.For more about our work in social business, including exclusive in-depth interviews and additional feature articles, please see the online exploration in the Social Business area of MIT Sloan Management Review’s website and at Deloitte’s website.