What Is Social Collaboration? (and Why You Should Care)

Enterprise social collaboration, as defined by the Aberdeen Group, is “an organizational initiative where employees or partner organizations work together to accomplish business-related tasks, via user-generated (social) content creation and sharing.” The analyst firm also notes that social collaboration “connects internal stakeholders… for timely and effective information exchange,” which is a definition closer to our own interpretation here at Jive. Put simply, social collaboration connects people to each other and to knowledge within an organization.

What does social collaboration entail? Collaboration tools include a broad range of functions, from instant messaging to company intranets to document collaboration to knowledge bases, forums, and user groups. If it brings together people and information, it’s probably a social collaboration tool.

Benefits of social collaboration

The “what” of social collaboration is pretty straightforward. In the context of business, it’s more relevant to ask why collaboration tools are so important. At the highest level, social collaboration tools break down silos to improve access to the people and information that help work get done more quickly and accurately. Those silos may be technological, geographical, organizational, personal, or all of the above. With better collaboration, they can be integrated in an effective way.

In its report, Enterprise Social Collaboration: Driving Customer Experience Excellence through Teamwork, the Aberdeen Group measured the benefits of social collaboration specific to customer-focused use cases. Their findings clearly prove that social collaboration delivers serious business impact. Compared with average companies, organizations with best-in-class collaboration programs demonstrated:

  • 12% better customer retention rate
  • 16% faster time-to-information (access to business information within published internal expectations)
  • 13% better organizational operational efficiency

The best-in-class organizations also showed significant gains in year-over-year improvement in response time to customer requests, and year-over-year improvement in on-time project delivery and SLA compliance.

Benefits of social collaboration go beyond customer experience as well. Additional advantages include:

  • Increased productivity. Employees spend almost 50% of their time searching for information and managing communications. Social collaboration tools dramatically streamline that process, enabling people to find what and whom they need more efficiently and effectively – which means they have more time to get real work done.
  • Clear, consistent communication. Social collaboration tools allow organizations to communicate meaningfully at every level. Corporate-wide and executive announcements get shared and interacted with so everyone becomes aligned with the company vision, mission, and news. Departments gain a digital meeting space to work on projects and build relationships. And every employee benefits from a social media “water cooler” to get to know each other and foster friendships. This last point is not trivial: Harvard Business Review reports that “close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.”
  • Stronger corporate memory. Corporate culture – and its longer-term counterpart, corporate memory – stem from a communal understanding of an organization’s values and knowledge. In today’s world, that’s becoming harder and harder to create and sustain. Social collaboration provides the framework to connect people to each other and to the historical and real-time information that’s critical to organizational success.

Choosing an Enterprise Collaboration Platform

Now that you know what social collaboration is and why it matters, how do you choose the right social collaboration tool for your organization?

Aberdeen provides useful guidance here, too. The organizations in their research that demonstrated best-in-class use of social collaboration cited three main capabilities as being “essential” to an enterprise social collaboration platform:

  1. File sharing and document collaboration
  2. Activity streams and conversational messaging
  3. Business process integration (e.g., the ability to authorize a purchase request from within the stream’s workflow)

Here at Jive, we agree with these wholeheartedly and would add a few of our own. The Jive-n Interactive Intranet includes additional crucial capabilities for today’s modern workforce, like:

  • Mobile-friendly: access all of your favorite social collaboration tools any time and anywhere.
  • Integrations: integrate your social collaboration platform with all your business-critical applications, from Office 365 to the G suite to Salesforce, Jira, and more.
  • Analytics: gain full visibility into social collaboration within your organization with powerful dashboards and reports.

As with any technology purchase, the first step is to identify your use cases and objectives, then make sure that each social collaboration tool on your shortlist can address your needs now and in the future. And speaking of the future…

The future of social collaboration

While people’s inherent need to connect to each other and their work doesn’t change, the tools by which we make those connections do. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will transform social collaboration tools into smart, predictive hubs that serve up knowledge when and where you need it. The first step in this direction – and one that we’re actively pursuing at Jive – is semantic search. Semantic search adds context to your search queries, returning results that understand the intent of your question, not just the words themselves. From there, social collaboration will only get more intelligent, delivering on its promise to connect people and information in new and ever-changing ways.


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