The power of social media has been made clear – the ability to instantly connect and share information hasn’t just empowered friendships and business relationships, but has powered entire revolutions.

But the benefits of social go beyond the monetary, which is seeing more businesses earn revenue from socially-focused campaigns and advertising. Enterprise networks are breaking down barriers and allowing companies to connect staff who otherwise never would have connected.

And the benefits are huge – enterprise networks result in employees taking 34% less time to find the information and experts they need to do their jobs.

Social platforms have turned from fun ways to communicate into major business tools. And they aren’t going away – in fact, they’re running the world.

Enterprise networks

The rise of social media in the workplace may make some businesses uneasy, but the connections are too beneficial to ignore.

Of those businesses which use social networks for employees, 34% of workers have said they take less time to find information and experts, while 27% recorded a decrease in duplicated tasks.

This goes beyond simple instant messaging and communication tools. The ability to share content and information with other employees over social networking is influencing job-hunting decisions. Employees are increasingly prioritising social-media freedom and device flexibility over salary in job offers.

It’s good for innovation, too – businesses using enterprise social networks have recorded a 32% rise in ideas generated.

The rise of networks such as Yammer and SocialCast enable staff who never may have connected previously to join, collaborate and create solutions.

In a study done by Forrester of four companies more than 7,000 users, with a popular social network for businesses, the total benefit was $10.2 million – far outweighing the total cost of $1.7 million for a three-year license for the platform (at $5 per user).

Buying through the social ecosystem

During the rise of social media the concept of sales was almost taboo – given the nature of how networks like Facebook grew in popularity – on school campuses – the ability to sell through these services was restricted by the tone of the conversation.

That’s changed. Sales on social media are driving significant increases in revenue – during Cyber Monday 2013 the average spend made through Facebook and Pinterest leads was over $92 for each.

But the fragmentation of networks has created new problems. For years businesses have been attempting to track their return on investment through social channels. The rise of advertising products and other metrics on tools such as Facebook have made this easier than ever.

What these figures show is that different networks produce different sales outcomes, making it crucial for businesses to choose carefully which social platforms with which they engage.

Social Payments

The success of these campaigns depends heavily on companies’ ability to target networks specifically.

Facebook’s users tend to place higher average order values after viewing advertisements through social networking – although Pinterest users are more likely to buy something in-store after viewing an ad.

This type of targeting is crucial, as it can lead to significant revenue gains. For instance, in 2010 the Old Spice brand managed to record a 27% increase in sales after recording a series of comedic advertisements – and then heavily pushed them on social media.

The ads were actually launched online first on YouTube – and captured 75% of all conversation online in the relevant category.

This becomes more complex when considering individual networks are selling their own promoted posts, such as on Twitter. But this carries even more complicated considerations – are these promoted posts worth taking up if they have already been met with hostility by a network’s user base?

The future

With or without you, social platforms will continue to shape the mindsets and preferences of customers. Beyond Facebook and Twitter, many platforms are introducing advertising content, such as Pinterest which is already selling advertising space. It’s clearly shown to be effective.

Being part of the social and digital conversation has never been more important. The real question for businesses is deciding which network is most important for their audience – and judging how to balance between joining a conversation and too much pushing of a brand, which can only lead to failure.

 

Contributor

John Riccio

John is PwC Australia’s Design & Deploy, Experience Consulting partner.

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