State Street Corporation is using social tools to deepen its understanding of client issues and develop more valuable solutions. As Hannah Grove, executive vice president and chief marketing officer explains, when it comes to their overall marketing strategy, social tools are “a very big deal.”

Turning an organization into a social business — one that knows how to use new forms of collaboration and communication via social media — is a challenge for any operation, but it’s especially challenging for multinational, highly regulated companies.

Boston-based financial services company State Street deals with this double whammy every day. A company founded in 1792 — yes, you read that right — and traded on the New York Stock Exchange, State Street has approximately 29,000 employees and offices in 29 countries — so it is subject to 29 different sets of regulations, not to mention international law. Which makes managing its online activities… interesting.

The company has a website, of course, and a presence on both Twitter and LinkedIn. But until a few years ago, it was venturing slowly into using social media for its operations.

Today, it has become an industry model for how to use social business to make the business more innovative. Information Week named the institution social business leader of the year in 2013, noting that a 72-hour online “innovation rally” held by the company in 2012 saw “employees from around the world participating in eight online forums on ways for State Street to improve its business.” The brainstorming session attracted 12,000 postings, which the coordinators filtered down to about 400 for further investigation and then down to 16 ideas “with a reasonable expectation of return on investment.”

In a conversation with David Kiron, executive editor for MIT Sloan Management Review’s Big Idea Initiative, Hannah Grove, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, explains how the bank piloted its first forays with social tools, and what it’s doing today.

Is there a driving vision behind State Street’s approach to social business tools?

A very important catalyst to State Street’s approach to social business is our focus, which is reflected in our marketing strategy, on adding value for our clients.

We think about the client being in the center of our universe and constantly ask ourselves how we can create a surround-sound effect that gives them the power to gather more insights, more information, and help overcome the challenges they face.