Sometimes it's hard to believe how new all the various Web 2.0 tools which we now take for granted really are. Over the past several months I've worked hard at finding formal academic research which attempts to demonstrate the business value / ROI of social media for non consumer focused industrial companies. Well folks, it's slim pickings out there! While I believe in the value of social media and have many examples where the enhanced communication has delivered value, this field seems to be too young to have attracted many formal academic studies. In addition to my own efforts, I've had two research librarians look hard for content. While it's easy to find articles in magazines and journals authored by so called experts, thorough studies using metrics are almost impossible to find.
Here is what I've found. If you know of other sources, please post a link in the comments.
From the University of Southern California, I found an excellent report on the ROI of virtual teaming (Meeting the Performance Challenge: Calculating ROI for Virtual Teams). This 47 page report studies two teams in detail including a global alliance research and development team. Here a quote I particularly like:
And my other favorite quote from the study:
I actually posted via Twitter in my attempt to solicit benchmarking partners. Here are links to a couple of those Tweets (I found even less academic research surrounding industrial use (non consumer focused) of Twitter and micro-blogging):
I did come across one other intriguing academic research effort led by Professor Sandy Pentland of MIT. He is the recent author of a book, "Honest Signals ... How They Shape Our World" (podcast). The professor and his team are doing some cool research on social networks and cell phones. The research participants wear a sensor device which delivers data to the research team. Unfortunately, the data around social interaction with cell phones while interesting, does not really pertain to my corporate work.
For those of you with access to APQC, they also have a very thorough benchmarking report (200+ pages) on "Accelerating Collaboration and Knowledge". However, formal studies of micro-blogging (Twitter, Yammer, etc) in which I have a particular interest are rare.
Once again, if you know of examples, or work for a large industrial company and would like to benchmark, post a comment or give me a shout.
Update on June 25th: Posted CalTech NASA Collaboration Research Study