A friend of mine who works for a massive financial services company asked me recently "What can social do for us?" Like most business types, he thinks social is just for fun. That it's just for showing off whiz bang technology like the iPhone. Or sharing random stuff with your friends on Facebook. To be fair, he concedes that social is also good for promoting activism. Which reminds me, today is Blog Action Day and this year's topic is water. Did you know a billion people don't have access to clean water. Here's what you can do about it. Download the Cause World app, which lets you donate clean water. Back to my topic. Is social really good for business? I have a dozen white papers and pdfs that say it is from trusted sources like Forrester. But what will convince my friend are real-world examples. So here goes. Telecommunications company Avaya landed a $250K sale on Twitter, just by listening and responding to a potential customer. Charles Schwab used private communities (Jive) to get inside the heads of Gen X investors, discovered that these consumers start their investment thinking at their checking accounts, and then launched a high-yield checking account – which resulted in 32% more Gen X investors. We've all heard how Dell made $6.5 million in Twitter-driven sales in 2009. But have you heard how Colgate Palmolive used a wiki to solve a technical challenge that had stumped its in-house R&D staff and paid only $25,000 for a simple solution? Ford is another brand known for its use of social. The car manufacturer achieved 38% awareness by Gen Y for its new Fiesta product, without spending a dollar on traditional advertising. Every industry can benefit from social. Mass General Hospital set up CarePages – an easy to use tool that lets patients post updates for their friends and family and vice versa; so patients can focus more on medical decisions and on getting better; and their family/friends can be an even stronger support system. Unilever set up a community to study young men, the target market for Axe body spray. The insights they discovered helped them position Axe as helping attract the opposite sex. Salesforce.com’s IdeaExchange invited the customer community to itemize their development priorities. In one year, Salesforce got over 5,000 ideas. This helped the company speed up new product releases with many more features that customers really wanted. Best Buy created a site to listen to employees and connect them to one another; sales associates help one another solve problems; employees provide feedback on corporate programs; employees are energized and innovation is nurtured. JetBlue uses Twitter to support its customer services/customer care program. With 1.6 million followers, JetBlue is able to update fliers on flight status and share relevant promotions. Intuit set up a wiki for tax accountants. It has become one of the most trafficked wikis on the Internet. These are just a few examples of how social is being used to improve the way business is done. I have a spreadsheet with dozens more. If you'd like a copy of it, just let me know. Paul, are you listening?