Some people wonder whether social networking is a passing fad that will diminish in importance and attention over time. However, a recent social networking study by the McKinsey Global Institute concludes that more than $1 trillion can be realized annually by the value chain of social technologies. When used across enterprises, these technologies have the potential to raise the productivity of high-skilled workers as much as 25%.

The study, titled "The Social Economy: Unlocking Value And Productivity Through Social Technologies," notes that:

  • More than 1.5 billion people worldwide already have at least one account on a social networking site.
  • Practically 20% of all online hours are spent on social networks, with that percentage climbing based on mobile device usage.
  • Importantly, the social networking study finds that as of last year, 72% of surveyed companies use social technologies for business purposes, and 90% of these companies report associated benefits.

The speed and scale of consumers' adoption of social technologies has surpassed those of prior technologies, according to the study. Social technologies benefit from the speed, scale and economics of the Internet and provide an easy means for users to share, publish and obtain content within a group.

Of course, the study points out that social interactions carry risks. Such risks include privacy violations, reputational damage, identity theft, intellectual property loss or infringement and disruption of more traditional business models.

But the study stresses that the benefits of social technologies should outweigh the risks for most companies. Indeed, those businesses that do not adopt social technologies likely will be missing the train into the future and will be at a competitive disadvantage.

To capture the full benefit of social technologies, companies will be required to undergo changes in organizational and cultural structures, processes and practices. In the short run, this likely will require some monetary and time investments. But the thrust of the social networking study suggests that such investment will be worthwhile in the long run.