Research Summary: Introducing The 43 Use Cases For Social Business (Social Enterprise)

Published on August 28, 2011 by R "Ray" Wang

The Social Business (Social Enterprise) Moves Beyond The 18 Use Cases Of Social CRM

As social media adoption continues to move from mainstream to pervasive ubiquity, enterprises will begin to benefit from these advancements in the consumerization of IT (CoIT).  Just 18 months ago, early adopters identified 18 Use Cases for Social CRM (SCRM).  These ground breaking use cases showed enterprises how to bring social into existing CRM processes.

Consequently, the market has moved on beyond just marketing, service, and support use cases.  In the latest Software Insider “State of Social Business” survey, 103 respondents identified 25 additional use cases that spanned across key enterprise business processes that impact eight key functional areas, from external facing to internal facing (see Figure 1):

  1. Public relations/ marketing (PR/MA).  Key impacted business process: Campaign to lead
  2. Sales (SFA).  Key impacted business process: Lead to deal
  3. Service and support (CSS).  Key impacted business process: Incident to resolution
  4. Projects (PBS).  Key impacted business process: Kickoff to delivery
  5. Innovation/ product life cycle management (PLM). Key impacted business process: Concept to production
  6. Supply chain (SCM). Key impacted business process: Sourcing to acceptance
  7. Human capital management (HCM). Key impacted business process: Hire to retire
  8. Finance. Key impacted business process: Invoice to payment

Figure 1. Constellation Defines 43 Social Business/ Social Enterprise Use Cases and 24 Key Analytics

(Hint: right click to expand and view the full image)

Early Adopters Identify HCM And Projects As The Next Growth Area For Social Business

Survey respondents chose their top 3 internal collaboration and external engagement social business use cases (see Figure 2).  Not surprisingly, service/support use cases led the pack with Reactive support-External (68.9%) and Support escalation and resolution – External (64.1%).  Lead generation – External in the PR Marketing category rounded out the top 3 at (63.1%).  Meanwhile, Projects and HCM gain traction among the top 5 use cases. Respondents report an increase in adoption of Projects Workspaces- Internal (36.9%) such as wiki’s and similar internal collaboration tools.  Meanwhile, HCM Recruiting – External (34.0%) emerged as the fifth most utilized use case.

Other general trends include:

  • Use cases split mostly evenly between internal collaboration (9) and external engagement (11)
  • Service/support (6) and Sales (6) dominate the top use cases followed by HCM (3),  PR/Marketing (3), Projects (2)
  • Respondents identified new use cases for areas such as supply chain, finance, and innovation/PLM


Figure 2. The Top 20 Social Business (Social Enterprise) Use Cases For 103 Early Adopters

(Hint: right click to expand and view the full image)

Recommendations: Apply Constellation’s DEEPR Disruptive Adoption Framework For Social Business (Social Enterprise)

The DEEPR framework shows users where they fit in the five levels of disruptive technology adoption (see Figure 3). The framework applies to social business and provides the basis used in early adoption surveys such as Constellation latest report, “Lesson Learned From 100 Early Social Business Adopters”.

  1. Discovery. A few individuals begin the process of discovering new tools. As these individuals identify consumer tech innovations that impact enterprise business processes, leaders must discern hype from reality and garner executive support. Teams should take the time to understand the target audience and what challenges/gaps a social solution will help them solve. Solutions should focus on business value at the outset.
  2. Experimentation. As small teams experiment with new tools they often fail fast on experiments, learn, and move on. Leaders must foster a safe environment for experimentation. From there, they can encourage internal collaboration and begin the process of selecting a short list of appropriate tools.
  3. Evangelization. In this level, small department leaders seek repeatable processes and begin test pilots of technology. Momentum begins to build for projects. Leaders incorporate social into business models and track meaningful business metrics
  4. Pervasiveness. Successful evangelization leads to enterprise wide acceptance. Processes become repeatable and predictable. Leaders scale to match demand and ensure long term-funding.
  5. Realization. With a successful project at hand, the enterprise seeks to expand the usage to ecosystem stakeholders. Suppliers, partners, and customers are brought into the fold. Leaders anticipate convergence and develop social business governance plans.

Figure 3.  Inside Constellation’s DEEPR Disruptive Adoption Framework For Social Business

(Hint: right click to expand and view the full image)

The Bottom Line: More Use Cases Will Emerge

While areas such as social marketing may have peaked, other innovative use cases will emerge beyond the 43 social business (social enterprise) use cases.  Why? Social media continues to permeate into and across key enterprise business processes.  With the rapid consumerization of IT , buyers should seek advice and assistance from those who understand enterprise class issues.

In fact, buyers can expect many pseudo research based consulting firms and social media pundits to quickly shift gears as they try to enter the enterprise space.  However, buyer beware – many will fail their clients because of a lack of understanding about complex business processes and the constraints of legacy IT.

Your POV.

As part of our ongoing research, we are seeking new case studies from both early adopters and vendors.  Send us a new case study (see Figure 1) and in return we’ll send you a copy of the latest Constellation Report, “Lessons Learned From 100 Early Social Business Adopters” (a $2000 value)

What’s your use case?  Did we miss one? Let us know!  Got a question?  Add your comments to the blog or reach me via email: R (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com or R (at) SoftwareInsider (dot) com.

Please let us know if you need help with your Social CRM/ Social Business efforts.  Here’s how we can assist:

  • Assessing social business/social CRM readiness
  • Developing your social business/ social CRM  strategy
  • Vendor selection
  • Implementation partner selection
  • Connecting with other pioneers
  • Sharing best practices
  • Designing a next gen apps strategy
  • Providing contract negotiations and software licensing support
  • Demystifying software licensing

Related Research:


Reprints can be purchased through Constellation Research, Inc. To request official reprints in PDF format, please contact sales (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com.


Although we work closely with many mega software vendors, we want you to trust us. For the full disclosure policy, see the full client list on the Constellation Research website.

Copyright © 2011 R Wang and Insider Associates, LLC All rights reserved.

  • […] Customer communities. This is one of the strongest and most easily started models for strategic community. The evidence for business value is strong enough that I’ve wondered if the window is already closing on customer communities in certain industries. Certainly in my research I’ve found that customer care communities can reduce costs by 30% in the first year alone over traditional approaches. Social support also at the very top of Ray Wang’s social business use cases. […]

  • Romkesh

    When you look at a more advanced model and adoption, you will see that there are more use cases than the 5 you are showing. In fact, your use cases are all internal facing and do not account for the external use cases. Happy to chat if you havea moment to compare notes. Cheers


  • One question that we deal with most often is “What are the primary use cases for social business software in an enterprise.” And it is indeed the most intelligent question to ask. Here is the short and sweet answer. Any thing more than this, in our opinion, in unnecessary marketing talk

    – Collaboration and Knowledge exchange among employees and partners
    – Enterprise communication: Chatting, micro blogging, discussions, forums
    – Social networking and Expert search and reach out
    – User profiles and personal information management
    – Project and tasks management

  • Using social media is a highly cost-effective way to balance the goals of a tight budget with improving customer relationship management (CRM). Using a variety of social media tools can help you build brand loyalty and grow your business even in tough economic times.

  • As social CRM becomes a bigger part of customer service, the businesses that truly fail to deliver decent customer experience will be left open to attack.

    Shoddy and woeful CX is no longer being accepted…and why should it?!

  • Lynne,

    glad you found this useful. thanks for sharing your story!! Bean counters will always need metrics!


  • Ray, I learned about this study by clicking on an Appirio article link which in turn was posted on an HR Tech LinkedIn Group post. Wish I had known about the survey this year! I found the DEEPR disruptive adoption framework to be almost “dead-on” to what we’ve experienced this year in our SMB. Moreover, we started the “social business” experiment with finance, which would probably have been fascinating for the study – as it has been for us! Below is the comment I made on the HR Tech group about what the experience has been like:

    “I guess I should jump in here since we are early adopters and have made heavy use of Chatter in finance since the beginning of the year when we implemented Financialforce, an accounting/finance app on the SF platform. I’m only sorry we didn’t participate in Ray Wang’s study – maybe it would have given the last-ranked finance functional area a boost!

    While the company is an SMB and, as such, is fairly nimble and can make adjustments quickly, it is deeply entrenched in a very traditional, out-dated industry that is incredibly manual and slow to change.

    The list of what the finance team uses Chatter for – and the ways it pushes information out to support operations through Chatter – is endless. We expect to do the same and have the same impressive gains in productivity, collaboration, visibility and more efficient daily work processes with the Vana HCM app, which we just installed and are in the process of deploying this month.

    Naomi is right – the key take-away point is the bigger picture of “collaborative use cases and deployments” which tools like Chatter completely enable. For us, the finance team has been leading the way in collaboration and sharing internally – which is kind of counter-intertuitive and a bit like the “tail wagging the dog” but hey, if you can get the finance area to be innovators and embrace it, most of your change management battles in an enterprise are won IMHO. This is because finance is typically VERY conservative and traditional! Believe me, I know – as a CPA with a love for marketing and sales I fight against the “beancounter” type casting every day 🙂

    Ultimately we will see collaboration throughout the entire organization and are now “selling” this feature and the ability to do so to our external global mobility “ecosystem” of customers, vendors and partners. We see these tools as incredible solutions for users and as a basis for bringing really disruptive (from a positive perspective!) practices and processes to our somewhat antiquated industry.”

  • Sankaran –

    Yes. there’s a shot this could happen. Social media is like any tool. it can be used for good and bad. The secret is to learn how to combat the “black arts” – R

  • Isn’t there a danger of the business objectives and Organisational goals being hijacked by participants & users of the Social Media.

    Especially in a country like mine ( India) where Technology is relatively new, Information and literacy levels are low


  • Andy – not at all. most b2b orgs aren’t ready or using social media. They have yet hit the D for Discovery in the DEEPR framework. In addition, social media is only useful as a proxy if there’s a good representation of the overall customer base. Good points and thanks for your comments! – R

  • These are good ideas, 2 issues:

    1) many of the consumers don’t use Social Media. I recently did an informal survey of DBA and BASIS Admins in a large Mid West meeting. Of that audience, most rarely used social media; additionally very few wanted information fed to them through social media. They preferred websites for information.

    2)If we feed all information to social media, it will be no different than that lousy email thing I use (I have 18,000+ emails in my inbox,none older than 12 months, many deleted every day). Today social media doesn’t have enough segmentation functionality to separate your business, your other business, and your personal data. It comes to you in one massive dump you must chew through.

    I sound like I don’t support social media, that would be wrong. But, its not ready to take over the world yet. It still is mainly a buzzy synch between masses. We need more functionality and more users.

  • Organisations are still to realize significant tangible benefits of Social CRM that have impact on topline or bottom line.

    In a B2B business social channels can hardly help sales as decision makers generally do not participate much in the social forums. Most of the time people participating in the forums are marketers themselves mainly interested in promoting their own products/services. Social media can be one of the touch-point in the sales cycle but there exists a doubt of how credible or influencing it is.

    In a B2C business most of the times it is used as a channel to address bad comments from customers or cool down an irate customer. Social media can act as an effective media for a very innovative viral campaign. But most of the times it is difficult to create such virals.

  • Karie – great point. we see this as a huge opportunity to accelerate learning from both a corporate as well as a consumer approach. what do others think? – R

  • In the micro-climate of the Learning/Training/Employee Development world, “social learning” is a huge use case and makes every journal out there now as a key topic. Unleashing the power of peer-to-peer learning must be in the HCM stream. If every person in a company posts just one time their best work, imagine the potential for finding and using relevant, company-created content. And how much more valuable if that can utilize video. See for the power of flipping the entire concept of how learning can happen when we use video outside the classroom and make context and meaning come to life in the classroom. How much more so can this work inside organizations with adults sharing content with each other?

  • jeff – good observation. i think we tend to do things backwards or go for the lowest hanging fruit w/o realizing the impact of our actions. keep it coming! – Ray

  • Ray,

    It is interesting to see how customer development and retention lag behind in the adoption of social technologies. This goes well beyond the basics of using social for service to using disruptive technologies to drive two primary business goals:
    – Increase share of wallet
    – Deepen/broaden relationships within the enterprise

    Social is capable of acting as an early warning system for potential opportunities well before they go to RFP.

    Have you come across many companies looking at social in this way?

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Jeff – Sensei

  • Doug – thank you again for great insights. we’re still waiting for the day you join us in the analyst ranks! =) If you got a use case we haven’t seen yet, let us know! – R

  • Ray,

    Your observation that new use cases will emerge demonstrates how we are only scratching the surface of ‘social’. The current dominant use cases seem to show how social can be faster (recognizing something faster) and more effective (by tapping into corporate knowledge). The use case domains are traditional, as one would expect when leveraging new technology. Nevertheless, these use cases point the way to the future:

    1. Customer service is a dominant concern despite all the talk about using social networking for marketing and sales. (My suspicion is that the use of social media for marketing broadcast is low hanging fruit and that the benefits of broadcast in a network will plateau. Marketers will need to engage the ecosystem operating ‘in network’. )
    2. Social is being or could be leveraged in some unexpected places like finance.
    3. Early adopters have yet to fully leverage social across across organizational boundaries – although the trend for use in customer service points to a momentum where we may see things like using customer problems to generate innovation or change company processes. (Listening
    and interacting for insight, not specifically crowdsourcing.)
    4. This could be a categorization anomaly: the use case of engaging within a business domain, not specifically customers, such as press, analysts, academics, enthusiasts, eco-system members to predict future customer needs, help set priorities was not one of the use cases. Interestingly, this is very valuable for us. (Will need to write this up for you.)

    Marshall McLuhan pointed out that a new medium uses the old for content. This explains the amount of tweeting that references traditional news sources. I think that we are in the same stage with social business. The medium will become the message when organizational structures change (to the ‘left’ in your 6 S posting.) New more valuable social use cases will emerge.

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