Monday, January 16, 2012

Social computing for business insight (Korea)




Social networking services hold valuable information for businesses. HP Social Computing Lab, for instance, predicts box-office revenue for movies by using posts from Twitter and was more accurate than financial market expectations reflected in share prices of production companies.

Businesses are increasingly regarding ordinary consumers and employees as the main source of their business ideas rather than consultants and other professionals. The penetration of smart devices and social networking services is making it easier for businesses to collect ideas from the masses. Social computing, which improves and systemizes collective intelligence based on social software and collective decision making, is helping businesses solve problems, Samsung Economic Research Institute said in a report.

Lee Sung-ho, a research fellow at the institute, cited a survey by IBM GBS, according to which CEOs picked employees, partner companies and customers as the main source of innovation. Consultants came in fourth with only one out of four picking them.

Enterprises in developed countries are actively using collective intelligence both inside and outside the office. “Companies like GE hold idea fairs for partner companies and customers. The participation of consumers enables firms to identify demands and engage in necessary promotions,” Lee explained.

While social networking services are sources of diverse opinions, these services lack the capability to organize the flood of information. “Tremendous amounts of data are accumulating. People just don’t know where to get the collective intelligence,” said Yoon Young-yong, a campaign consultant, in a conference last November, adding that reading the data enables people to realize not only public sentiment, but also consumption patterns and international phenomena. Social computing can be used to hold contests to choose gems among numerous ideas collected and utilize them for collaboration in securing business opportunities and subsequent profits.

Lee explained that software enabling collaboration, coupled with cloud computing and social networking services has accelerated social computing. The software helps users communicate with colleagues, jointly work on documents, and set up agendas for projects. Cloud computing cuts down on the cost of collaboration by getting rid of the need to set up an exclusive system. “Software like Google Apps, Microsoft Office and ThinkFree Office are now available on cloud servers, accelerating online collaboration. Group brainstorming has also become possible,” Lee said.

Likewise, social networking and Internet phone services cut the cost of setting up pricy infrastructure for video conferences, on top of expanding collaboration with customers. He cites social networking service Google Plus, through which users can hold a video conference while working on documents or having a brainstorming session by using sketch pads.

He said that social computing will help businesses forecast their future and develop new areas. “Global companies expect social computing will make the biggest innovations in forecasting, idea searching and realizing business opportunities,” the researcher noted.

He pointed out that while social networking services provide a venue for diverse opinions, they lack the capability of choosing from the numerous pieces of information and integrating them. Social computing helps with this process, leading collective wisdom to business opportunities and profits.

While offline group discussions can have such negative consequences as suppressing creative ideas or critical thinking among members who are looking for convergence in opinions, social computing can minimize such risks through neutral analysis of immense quantities of opinions by using computer algorithms.

Lee said it is more important to bolster software and systems to encourage social computing, rather than focusing on hardware. Those participating in collective discussions should also be provided appropriate compensation to encourage further participation.

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