The New Symbiosis of Professional Networks: 2011 SNCR Study Results


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This is the second annual New Symbiosis of Professional Networks research study. In this study we examined the role of social media on decision-making among enterprise users and explored the dynamics of trust as well as the value of engagement and collaboration to support decision making and innovation across company operations for internal and external purposes.
This research explores the following questions:

•Is social media regarded as a trustworthy source of information for professionals?

• What do enterprise decision makers value most when interacting with peers through social media and social networks?

•How do enterprise decision makers use social media to gather information, advice and support peer collaboration; and how do they compare to traditional off-line networking and knowledge share?

•What tools and sources of social media are relied upon by professionals to make decisions?

•Will social media change the business and practice of enterprise-level operations (internal and external)?

•How do business leaders use social media for customer engagement/support; innovation of products and service; employee engagement; strategy development; sales and marketing?

•What has changed since 2009 in terms of social media usage and trust among professional decision-makers

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  • For summary and ongoing dialogue about these results please be sure to vision Don's blog Http:// and mine at
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The New Symbiosis of Professional Networks: 2011 SNCR Study Results

  2. 2. About This StudyFocus of the study: Users of online professional networks Examination of current use of online professional networks Online preferences Changes and predicted changes in use of online professional networksSample composition: The survey “The New Symbiosis of Professional Networks” was administered online to 114 participants Participants were notified through blogs and direct email invitation by study sponsors Close to two in ten (18%) respondents identified themselves as the CEO of their organization, with close to half identifying themselves as a “Director” (20%) or “Manager” (24%) Company size ranged from less than 100 to over 50,000 full-time employees Age was well distributed with the greatest proportion in the 36-45 range 10 countries were represented, with 76% of respondents living in the US All respondents were either the decision makers or influenced the decision maker 2
  3. 3. 4 Key Research Findings Thought Leadership is the new currency of online professional collaboration. • Business professionals are changing how they collaborate as a result of online professional communities and peer networks. • Social networks have evolved to become knowledge and communication networks. • Access to thought leadership content is now the #1 reason why professionals surveyed visit networks and communities. • Professionals are collaborating with each other visa vie the thought leadership content they generate, curate or share. No longer is collaboration an experience between a limited number of people. The collaboration recipe = 1 to 2 large networks + 1 to 2 niche communities • While nearly all professionals surveyed (97%) use LinkedIn, the use of smaller (niche) professional network are activity being used to find peers and content specifically related to the work that they do (by role, industry, geography, etc.). • Professionals are finding the right mix of large open networks and private communities to support their learning, networking and decision-making activities. Social Business is starting to happen within professional communities of practice • Professional communities are being used more frequently to inform business strategy and supporting new products and services (much more than in 2009). • 80% of respondents are able to accelerate decision process and information/strategy development by participating in communities. Professionals share and consume quality content within their professional networks as a way of exerting influence • Endorsement (via like, read, share, retweet) is at the center of collaboration in social media communities. •“The Crescendo Effect” in social media environments has great impact on the buying decision. High quality content yields transparency and credibility. • Professional collaboration is changing from a small professional exchange into an interaction with content in public ways. The consequence of sharing content online = influence 3/7/2011 3
  4. 4. Online Professional Network Usage 4
  5. 5. The “Big Three” Networks Remain Constant From 2009 To 2010, But Facebook Is Losing Significant Ground – Essentially all respondents indicated that they use LinkedIn – One third of respondents also mentioned Facebook, while just over two in ten mentioned Twitter – Hundreds of other networks were mentioned, many by only one or two respondents Top Professional Networks 92% LinkedIn 97% 40% Twitter 33% 51% Facebook 20% 13% Plaxo 5% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% 120% 2009 2010n= 113 Question: What are the top three online professional networks that you use? (Open Response) 5
  6. 6. Professionals Have Chosen Their Online Professional Networks - The age of professional networking experimentation is starting to end, as professionals have stabilized on the number of networks they participate in over the past two years. - 3-5 is the range of online professional networks that decision makers participate in. This is up by five percent over 2009 study (55% of respondents in 2010 they participate in 3-5 networks) - 68% of professionals surveyed report that they are satisfied with the communities that they have chosen to join. Question: How many ONLINE professional networks do you Question: Generally, how satisfied are you with your experience using online participate in (e.g. Industry-specific communities, Linked-In, professional networks? professional discussion forums, online customer support groups, etc.)?n= 114 Note: Those who indicated that they do not participate in any online professional networks were excluded from the study 6
  7. 7. Mobile Devices To Access Professional Networks are On The Rise:59% of Respondents Use them To Access Professional Networks – Essentially all respondents access social networks on a PC or Mac and about 6 in 10 respondents in 2010 access a professional network using a mobile device – 2010 showed a significant increase in the use of mobile devices to access online networks (15%) increase. 59% of respondents access online networks via mobile devices (vs. 44% in 2009).n= 114 7
  8. 8. And Apple Is The Preferred Mobile Device – Apple is dominate as the mobile device of choice that people use to access online networks (67%) followed RIM/Blackberry (37%) and Android devices (15%) Quick Facts about Mobile • At the time the study was conducted, the iPad was in the market only 6 months • In 2009 there were 180 iPhone apps for social networking, in 2010 there were 736 social networking apps for iPhone/iPadn= 67 8
  9. 9. The Majority Of Professionals Use Online Networks Daily To Inform Their Work – 80% of respondents access social networks one or more times a day with change in use increasing for 88% of respondents over the last three years – More than four in ten visit professional networks many times each dayn= 110 Question: On average, how often do you visit the networks or communities you belong to? 9 Question: How has this changed over the last three years?
  10. 10. Many Professionals Use A Combination Of “Big Three” Networks Plus Smaller, Selective Online Communities – Almost all respondents participate in large public networks or communities – Two thirds participate in open social media networks such as Twitter or Yelp – About half participate in midsize or specialized communitiesn= 114 10
  11. 11. And They Prefer To Engage Deeply With Peers In A Few Networks – Most respondents were split evenly between preferring to deeply experience a limited number of networks and joining many networks but only participating heavily in a fewn= 101 11
  12. 12. Professionals Value Online Communities To Connect and Compete – Networks have evolved to become trusted environments for relationship management and decision support – Most respondents find value in establishing or increasing their professional network and in increasing competitive brand monitoring and positioning – Significantly more professionals value professional networks for monitoring competitive brands over their own company brand Top Three Benefits Of Online Community Participationn= 114 12
  13. 13. Thought Leadership Content Is Central In The Use of Professional Networks As Business Decision-Making Platforms - Gaining access to thought leadership is the top reason that respondents visit online networks and communities (keeping track of peers ranked #1 in purpose for 2009) - 80% of respondents are able to accelerate decision process and information/strategy development by participating in communities via access to thought leadership - People collaborate for need not for speed as reduce travel costs is the least popular reason in 2009 & 2010 13n= 98
  14. 14. Search Engines Are Used More Frequently Than Company Web Sites to Inform Business Decision-making – The overwhelming majority of respondents (87%) conduct research via search engines to inform decision-making – The value of a company website as a destination for supporting/informing a decision has dropped by half from 2009 but still ranks #2 (43%) – Online professional networks and communities are now equal in importance to the corporate website to support decision-making Top Three Online Steps Typically Taken To Inform Your Decision-making Community and website share relative rankings 14n= 98
  15. 15. Sources Of Influence Are More Concentrated Online:Professionals Are Consuming More And Creating Less Content – About eight in ten respondents listen to or read information on their professional networks, and this is the top activity for two thirds of respondents 15
  16. 16. High Levels Of Trust Exists For Information Received via Professional Networks – Three quarters of respondents rely either lightly or heavily on professional networks to support business decisions. This is consistent with 2009. – Reliance has increased for essentially all respondents over the past three years, and increased significantly for about four in ten respondents Reliance On Professional Networks Change in Reliance On Professional Networks 2009 2010n= 95 Question: How much do you rely on professional networks for information/advice/insight to support business decisions? Question: How has this changed over the last three years? 16
  17. 17. People And Content Found Within Online Communities Are WidelyUsed To Identify Business Trends And In Support Of AProfessional Decision – Eight in ten respondents use online social networks to identify trends and key topics for further exploration – Just over a quarter use them to help reach a professional decision When Faced With A Professional Decision, Survey Respondents Are Likely To…n= 95 17
  18. 18. Online Collaboration Is Considered A Meaningful ProfessionalActivity – Respondents clearly see the value in online collaboration – They most appreciate the ability to reach out and connect with others and to gain fresh insight, ideas, and actionable information Statements Percent Agree I am able to reach and connect with other professionals and experts due to the network 73% Collaborating with others provides me with fresh insight, ideas, and actionable information 71% My collaboration with peers is strengthened by online connections and made more efficient 65% My connections online have shared information with me that inform the work I do in meaningful ways 60% Collaborating with others saves me time and money 49% I find people are more willing to collaborate online and share information than offline 47% I only collaborate or connect online with people I already know 19% Online connections are best for sales and marketing but not for collaboration 6% Connecting to others or collaborating does not interest me 3% Question: Which statements best capture your experiences collaborating with others in an online environment? (select all that apply) 18
  19. 19. Most Companies Have Internal Collaboration Tools But Only About Half Are Reported To Be Effective – About seven in ten respondents indicate that their company has collaboration tools in place, half of those indicate that they are used effectively – Fifteen percent of respondents indicate that, while their company does not sponsor social media tools, they are used informally to collaboraten= 91 19
  20. 20. Company Internets Of The Future Will Strive To Connect People (Forums) With The Work They Do (Content) – In a global workforce, context is more important than ever. Consequently, the intranet of the future will be focused on context of information. – More than four in ten respondents expect that in one to two years their company will be using social media for more content sharing and company-wide communications and for forums and discussionsn= 95 Question: In what ways do you see your company’s use of internal social media tools increasing over the next 1-2 years? 20 (select the top three)
  21. 21. While Professionals Value Collaboration, Their Companies SeekTo Invest In Social Media Marketing Programs – More than half of respondents foresee more marketing programs and content distribution in the next one to two years – Very few foresee no change in social media usagen= 95 Question: In what ways do you see your company’s external use of social media changing over the next 1-2 years? (select up to 3) 21
  22. 22. Satisfaction with Company’s Internal Technologies forCollaboration for Business Purposes Is Increasing – Just over one in ten respondents are extremely satisfied with their company’s internal technologies for collaboration for business purposes – Overall satisfaction with their company’s internal technologies for collaboration has increased over the past year Internal Collaboration Tool Satisfaction 100% 10% 12% 80% 47% Extremely Satisfied 60% 53% Somewhat Satisfied Somewhat Dissatisfied Extremely Dissatisfied 40% 30% 20% 20% 14% 15% 0% 2009 2010 Question: How satisfied are you with your company’s internal technologies for collaboration for business 22n= 91 purposes?
  23. 23. Summary Professionals are now using their social media peer groups and online communities as reliable in-puts into their decision-making  2009-10 was about exploring and experimenting with online relationships whereas 2010-11 is about capitalizing on them. Thought leadership is the professional currency of the future  Professionals and organizations are now being defined by the quality of the content they exchange, curate and create.  However, few content creation channels have stood the test of time as there is less content being created as professionals have learned to curate only the best New rules for collaboration in social media environments emerge  Endorsement is at the center of collaboration in social media communities  The endorsement (via read, share, like, retweet) drives influence that enables better decision making And, anytime anywhere access to our professional peer groups is a growing necessity  Mobile access to online communities and professional networks is the new norm  Therefore, relationships are more fluid and on-demand as professional now have the online networking skills to reach the experts they need, when they need them. 23
  24. 24. Demographics 24
  25. 25. Gender and Age – Slightly more than half of the respondents were male – A wide range of age groups were represented, with about two thirds of respondents falling between the ages of 36 to 55 Question: What is your gender? 25n= 92 Question: What is your current age?
  26. 26. Professional Role – Close to two in ten respondents reported that they are the CEO in their organizationn= 114 Question: Which of the following categories best describes your professional role in your organization? 26
  27. 27. Primary Business – One third of respondents described their organization’s primary type of business as “Business Services” – Another quarter reported that their primary type of business was computer productsn= 114 Question: Please indicate your organization’s primary type of business 27
  28. 28. Number of Employees – About half of respondents indicated that they work for an organization with less than 100 full time employees – At the other extreme, more than a quarter work for organizations with 10,000 or more employeesn= 114 Question: Approximately how many full time employees does your organization have worldwide including all divisions and 28 locations?
  29. 29. Responsibility – Close to half of respondents reported that they are the final decision-maker – More than four in ten reported that they participate in the decision-making process, while one in ten do research in support of the decision-maker Note: Those who indicated that they had no decision-making responsibility were excluded from the studyn= 114 Question: Which of the following best describes your responsibilities in making decisions on products and services in your 29 company or organizational unit?
  30. 30. Size of Budget Managed and Influenced – A third of respondents influence budgets of $1 Million or more, while just over one in ten directly manage budgets of that sizen= 105 Question: What is the average size of the budget that you 1) Manage and 2) Influence? 30