This year, we have seen the social enterprise trend pick up some serious momentum. When talking about social enterprises, I'm referring to businesses that are embracing the use of digital and social technologies across their business; something that expands well beyond traditional communications. Social technologies provide an unprecedented and credible opportunity to tap into and understand key stakeholders as individuals, which has the power to transform and dramatically enhance relationships with these stakeholders, ultimately providing businesses with a competitive advantage. It's an opportunity that many Chief Communications Officers have to embrace since their role is so crucial to this transformation.

In previous years, the socialization of the enterprise was seen by most corporate communicators as the uncomfortable nuisance - a disruptive bleeding of the consumer world into the enterprise. While many have yet to fully understand the power, most now recognize the huge potential benefits of social collaboration in the enterprise. All of a sudden it has become much more than just 'Facebook for the enterprise', it's now imperative for everyone from government organization to multinational corporations.

Businesses like IBM and have evolved their strategic business models to take advantage of this massive opportunity because they recognize that the social enterprise is not a passing fad – it is the future of business and a competitive advantage. Social in the enterprise is demonstrating that it has the potential to be more transformative than email and instant messaging. There's no denying that the new, more social enterprise will change the way people work and communicate in business and, as a result, prove to be a huge competitive advantage to those corporations that can adapt and embrace social technologies quickly and seamlessly.

While the social enterprise opportunity is undeniable, there are still some significant obstacles facing corporations. While the CIO has to consider critical issues such as data security, governance, risk and identity management and the CHRO has to think about career development and performance assessment, the CCO has the challenge of protecting the corporate brand and reputation. It's a challenge that the entire C-Suite must meet, for we are now faced with communicating with a radically new breed of customer - the social customer. To meet this challenge, internal teams must work together to deliver customer service the way their customers want it. This means marketing, PR, sales, and communications departments need to coordinate effectively with customer support to ensure customer issues are managed properly. In turn, customer support needs to make sure they are tightly integrated with the influx of customer feedback on social channels.

In short, a successful social enterprise requires a seamless relationship between departments that are armed with the right technology and process to work together to manage the needs of their constantly evolving socially-savvy customers. This challenge has a profound impact on every facet of organizations, and that includes an elevated role of the communications department. As a result, it has never been a more exciting, challenging and rewarding time to be a communications professional as we enter the era of the social enterprise.

It's rather fitting then that the theme of the 2012 Arthur W. Page Society Annual Conference, taking place in San Francisco, is 'The CCO and the Social Enterprise'. It's a great honor for me to be chairing this year's event, which will explore every aspect of the social enterprise from the role of technology and content to the importance of behavioral science and globalization. We have a jam-packed agenda with a whole host of industry thought leaders lined up to share their views and insights on the subject, and networking. Naturally technology will take a strong role in terms of content and its use through the entire conference. I look forward to sharing my views socially throughout the conference and I encourage many of you will do the same. Feel free to follow me @aedhmar and engage on Twitter using the dedicated conference hashtag #AWPannual, and I look forward to conversing with you both in person at the conference and online.

By Aedhmar Hynes
Chair, Arthur W. Page Society 29th Annual Conference
CEO, Text 100