We used to hold meetings to discuss the most futile of matters, but that form of communication is far from efficient. Social tools, on the other hand, are efficient. They have fundamentally altered the way in which we work together. And believe me: this is just the beginning.
I am convinced of the usefulness of social tools and I am not alone in this. A recent survey from McKinsey of more than 2,000 managers indicates that the vast majority of organizations (93%) are already using one or more social tools, versus 82% in the 2015 survey.
An integral part of our work
Three-quarters of managers in the McKinsey survey indicated that social tools are at least partially integrated into their activities. In other words, they have actually become part of our work. This is a favorable development. For most companies, the use of such tools on mobile devices is also already well established.
Social tools are popular for a good reason: literally every organization benefits from them. Here are five ways in which social tools transform business:
1. Fast and effective communication
Communication can be improved in most companies. It begins with email. Social tools allow staff to communicate much more effectively with one another. They are user friendly, work smoothly, and present information in a visually appealing manner. The contrast with overfull mail boxes is stark.
OK, not every social tool is a great success. The survey underlines the fact that users place the necessary demands on a tool. At minimum, it needs to make real-time interaction possible, ensure that users can work easily in groups or with individuals, and can be used on multiple platforms.
2. Changing organizational structure
Thanks to social tools, we communicate more freely, and as a result, classical structures such as teams, functions, and departments become blurred. Thus social tools are an excellent fit for a modern, flat organization. They help large companies once and for all deal with islands, unnecessary bureaucracy, and a crippling hierarchical structure. Knowledge is shared rather than defended.
Due to social tools, we are less attached to dividing lines and fixed task packages. That’s great! This trend cannot be stopped. Two-thirds of managers expect more communication across such boundaries. And half of them think that daily activities will be performed more and more on a project-by-project basis.
3. Key role in digital transformation
Social tools play a key role in the digital transformation of companies, if only because they are a good example of accessible new technology, which immediately proves its worth. McKinsey also sees a connection between social tools and digitalization and says they stimulate the digitalization of all business processes.
4. Better results, such as higher conversion
At the same time, social tools stand out even more if a business process is digital. For example, according to McKinsey, when marketing plans are digitalized, thanks to social tools, the conversion rate increases by 27%. When this is not the case, the average increase is about 20%. Quite a large difference.
You can of course analyse the data coming from social interactions with customers. Perhaps this produces usable information, such as language use and preferences of your target group, which can help you in optimizing your marketing efforts. When digital and social go hand-in-hand, conversion increases still further.
5. Eventually a replacement for email
The newest generation of social tools still have much more to offer. For example, they work seamlessly with all other business systems, such as applications for sharing files and social media. And they enable the user to query his or her automatically archived conversations, so you will never lose anything ever again.
I have especially high expectations for this search functionality. Social tools could even replace email as the medium for written communication. Unfortunately, we are not there just yet. The next-gen tools we are talking about are still not widespread. Only a handful of companies are already using them.
The future for social tools looks bright. Companies deploy them on a large scale and reap the benefits in all sorts of ways. The importance of social tools will only increase further over the next few years. Are we finally free of the dreaded overfull mail inbox?
For more ways that social is spreading throughout the organization, see In a Live Business, Social Gets Its MBA.