The Executive’s Role in Social Business

Executive commitment is essential when companies launch and grow social business initiatives. What’s more, social business is starting to change roles within the C-suite.

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In a recent interview, Gerald Kane, an associate professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, aptly described the rapidly evolving role of social business tools within companies. “Any new technology experiences a faddish hype cycle where people adopt it because they feel they have to,” Kane said. “With social, we are passing the peak of faddishness. Companies are starting to crack social’s code and turning to it for business advantage, intelligence and insight.”

In year two of the Social Business Global Executive Study and Research Project, MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte1 surveyed executives’ views on what we call social business and how companies are harnessing its value. (See “What Is Social Business?”) The survey included 2,545
respondents from 25 industries and 99 countries. It also incorporated interviews with 33 executives and social business thought leaders. (See “About the Research.”)

Echoing Kane’s observation, a key finding of the survey we conducted in the fall of 2012 is the rapid growth in importance of social business in the corporate world. In the 2011 survey, 18% of respondents said social business was “important today.” In 2012, that number doubled to 36%. Even those who don’t yet see social business as important expect it to grow in importance soon. In the 2011 survey, 40% of respondents agreed that social business would be important in one year. In the 2012 survey, the comparable number leaped to 54%.2 (See “The Growing Importance of Social Business.”)



1. “Deloitte” here 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. Note that 40% of survey respondents in our 2011 survey predicted that social business would be important to their company a year later, in 2012. This prediction was close to the actual percentage of respondents in our 2012 survey (36%) who said that social business was important to their company today.

3. A.J. Bradley and M.P. McDonald, “The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees” (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2011).

4. L. Gaines-Ross, “Get Social: A Mandate for New CEOs,” March 7, 2013,

5. J. Hagel, interviewed by D. Kiron, “How Finding ‘Exceptions’ Can Jump Start Your Social Initiative,” September 5, 2012,

6. L. McLellan, “By 2017 the CMO Will Spend More on IT Than the CIO,” webinar Gartner Inc., Jan. 13, 2012.

7. Hagel, “How Finding ‘Exceptions’ Can Jump Start Your Social Initiative.”

8. N. Fortlage, “Social Marketing Lessons from the CIO,” March 5, 2012,

9. Bradley and McDonald, “The Social Organization.”

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