The Life: Social technologies, such as online communities and blogs, can increase employee productivity and give insights into consumer expectations, says a McKinsey report.
Social sites rewarding to behold for businesses
In less than a decade, social media websites have become part of the breakfast ritual for people across the world.
And companies are increasingly targeting these plugged-in consumers to promote their goods and map customer expectations.
"Although the [social media] segment is unorganised, it is enjoying a lot of attention [for reasons], such as networking and furthering a product," says Vikram Suri, the managing director for the Middle East and India at Sage Software, based in the United States. His firm markets IT packages, such as human resources management, designed for medium to large enterprises.
Social media websites run on technologies that enable groups of users to create, add, modify, share and utilise online content and communications. If harnessed by companies, these technologies can increase employee productivity and give insights into consumer expectations, according to a report from the research firm McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), released last month.
Social technologies include tapping into online communities such as those on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as well as blogs. The study surveyed consumer packaged goods, retail financial and professional services, and manufacturing sectors as well as non profits in the US.
"The use of social technologies holds the promise of significant benefits for companies, [such as] increasing the productivity of [employees] by 20 to 25 per cent," says Michael Chui, the principal and senior fellow at MGI in the US.
Tips for companies to increase their employee productivity include instant messaging and microblogging, the McKinsey report recommends, allowing staff to access what other employees in the firm are writing about.
This would free up time for the managers who would have otherwise spent it on reading and answering emails, or searching for content.
"This is the future of networking [technologies]," said Intikhab Alam, the marketing chief at the bottled water giant Masafi in Dubai. "I receive 150-plus emails a day, and half of them are duplicates or general in nature."
In the Middle East, Mr Alam acknowledges that companies are latecomers to tapping the power of social media. On average, companies spend 7 to 8 per cent of their budgets on online tools.
"It was around 2010 that companies [here] started taking social media seriously," he says. "[Now, everybody wants to have a fan base] but they do not know what to do with it once they have built it."
As for Masafi, the company's engagement with customers such as contests in which prizes are Masafi products.
"One of the future [benefits] of social media will be to get real-time consumer research," says Mr Alam. "Right now, our fan base is not significant enough to run this [research]."
The target for Masafi is to have at least 50,000 Facebook fans by the end of the year. It now has about 2,300.
Tapping into online communities is also a priority for Sage Software.
In 2010, the company created an online forum on LinkedIn called "Accelerate out of the downturn".
During the slowdown, Mr Suri says many of the firm's clients delayed expansion plans. Then Saga organised an event attended by 300 people, including customers.
It was basically a session to regroup businesses and share ideas.
"But it also furthered the brand by associating and relating it with problem-solving," says Mr Suri.