psToday’s high-performing firms make social business an essential part of their overall business strategy. A good number (46%) of larger organisations (those with 50,000 or more employees) report that they are already socially enabled enterprises. Eight in 10 companies believe their investment in social platforms will increase over the next 12 months.

These results are part of the findings from ‘The Socially Enabled Enterprise’ survey by Social Media Today.

The study, based on responses from over 500 organisations across the world, explores what it means to be a socially enabled enterprise.

The use of social technologies within an organisation’s day-to-day operations, first appeared on the scene more than 10 years ago. During this early period, the business case was shaky, at best, but the pioneers held on to the belief that eventually the benefits would emerge.

“As the use of social tools expanded and organisations become more adept, a growing awareness emerged that these organisations needed to do more than simply use social tools to broadcast messages. They needed to embrace the two-way interactions and relationships these tools facilitated, becoming a socially enabled enterprise.”

Among the key factors for success, the study suggests having a “strong and collaborative leadership”, as well as “a linkage between the strategy for becoming a socially enabled enterprise and operational plans.”

smThere is a greater number of organisations (95%) that are adopting public external platforms – especially Facebook (92%), Twitter (86%) and LinkedIn (80%) – compared to internal social media (58%).

However, “employee engagement platforms are starting to emerge with strong business case support.”

In fact, internal social media are proving to have a “significant impact on company culture, staff productivity and retention.”

The consideration of the cultural change that organisations experience during the transition is key. VP of Community Strategy at Shell Don Bulmer, who is cited in the study,  suggests viewing social business more as a mindset and behaviour than a technology or community platform.

“Social is a dimension of how we engage and communicate; it’s a mindset that requires the organisation to think about its stakeholders differently.”

Author and technology journalist Paul Gillin, also refers to sharing knowledge as the essence of social business. He recognises that some organisations are still resistant and culturally not prepared to share information – an act often viewed as a threat rather an advantage.

However, Gillin believes that “as people become more comfortable using social networks in public, they will also become more comfortable using them within corporation.” He acknowledges the roles played by internal evangelists, C-level executives’ involvement and buy-in, and the delivery of a well defined purpose and unique value of the social networks to employees:

“Internal social networks will ultimately be successful and will probably be transformative. It will become simply part of the landscape.”

npWhole Foods Market’s Natanya Anderson, does not talk about internal social media. But she describes how social allowed the company to engage with customers through a new type of relationship based on shared values and listening. She emphasises that in order to do this, the first challenge for the company is cultural. The process “really touches every elements of the business,” with huge implications for staffing.

“In social and digital today people are seeking authentic conversation. They don’t want a canned response. They want a human being to respond to them and they want the conversation to be person to person. To do that you have to have people engaged.

“Being a social organisation means utilising social technologies – and not just technologies – but social attitudes and the preferences of everyone involved in the enterprise to help run the business.”

Indeed, it sounds like an exciting time for most organisations heading in the direction of becoming socially enabled.