Cisco 2009 3rd Party External Social Media Research Findings

Cisco release the results of a third-party global study today, designed to assess how organizations use consumer social networking tools to collaborate externally. Based on extensive interviews with 105 participants representing 97 organizations in 20 countries around the globe and conducted between April and September 2009, it's the first of a two-part series that Cisco has commissioned to explore the impact of social networking and collaboration applications in the enterprise.

Cisco release the results of a third-party global study today, designed to assess how organizations use consumer social networking tools to collaborate externally. Based on extensive interviews with 105 participants representing 97 organizations in 20 countries around the globe and conducted between April and September 2009, it's the first of a two-part series that Cisco has commissioned to explore the impact of social networking and collaboration applications in the enterprise.

The research comprised over 100 in depth interviews with companies, with guiding questions in key areas as well as open ended dialog.

Here's a graphic of the participants:

Some key findings from this research: the primary audiences that organizations are trying to reach focus on user communities (80%) and customers (50%)

– Social networks (75%) and micro-blogging (50%) are the primary tools to reach these audiences – Blogs were also being leveraged by close to half of the respondent base- Marketing and communications make up the majority of initiatives - Some activity is also being seen within HR and customer service departments - Many small and medium businesses (SMBs) are actively using social networking channels for lead generation

To enable formal integration of social networking tools, two major issues stood out: Governance & IT Involvement. The research conclusions are that the proliferation of consumer-based social networking can put organizations at risk if policies and process are absent.

“The rise of the connected consumer is driving a market shift in the enterprise, creating “people-powered business” where social networking tools and collaborative technologies are the propeller of the next-generation of productivity and bringing about a fundamentally different leadership model. Companies who will succeed in embracing the tremendous power of social networking will be those who design a collaborative IT architecture capable of supporting the use of these technologies and mitigating the risks they pose.” said Nick Earle, senior vice president, Cisco Services.

Social networking tools are being used in core business areas including marketing and communications, human relations, and customer service departments. Within marketing and communications, these tools have already become an integral part of the organizations’ initiatives, the research found, as marcomm staff members have understood and acted on the shift from “broadcast” to “conversational” communications and rich interactions. Small and medium-sized businesses are actively using social networking channels to generate leads, but this remains a growth opportunity for larger companies, the research found.

75 percent of organizations interviewed identified social networks as the consumer-based social media tools they primarily use for this outbound messaging, while roughly 50 percent of the group also identified extensive use of microblogging.

Only one in seven companies noted a formal process associated with deploying social networking tools, while one in five participants identified any policies in place concerning the use of consumer-based social networking technologies in the enterprise.

Companies struggle with policy creation and adoption, as copying established governance process from other more structured areas such as information technology often doesn’t work for unstructured social networking. Businesses also find difficulty in striking the right balance between the social and personal nature of these tools while maintaining some degree of corporate oversight.

Within the respondent base, social networking governance typically involved more stakeholders than standard corporate initiatives - these organizations have yet to define who “owns” external social media strategies. Without a single point of ownership within organizations, these initiatives are extremely difficult to control and manage.

Only one in 10 respondents noted direct IT involvement in externally facing social networking initiatives. Although the IT department is typically not involved as a primary decision maker, respondents did recognize the need for these tools to scale and properly integrate with existing business processes to reap maximum benefits.

The research was carried out by leading business schools in the United States and Europe IESE Business School in Spain, E. Philip Saunders College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the U.S., and Henley Business School in the United Kingdom.

Full research findings will be made available later this month.

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