Executives that don’t integrate social into their business strategy across the board could find themselves unemployed. With growing consumer expectations, losing brand awareness to more agile competitors and a need for increased transparency with stakeholders as key factors, I only have to point to the failed high street giants that tried to sidestep ecommerce and says the same fate awaits those that ignore social.

The face of communicating with stakeholders is changing, with social being embraced across all age groups. In the US the fastest growing demographic signing up is the over 65s and it’s a trend set to come to Europe. Newer devices such as tablets and smartphones have overcome many people’s fear of technology.

It’s not a computer any more, it’s a communication device to Skype with the grandkids, scan QR codes for money off vouchers and download the latest cooking guru’s App. People’s expectation of how they want to communicate is changing rapidly, recent research found that in the last eight months UK consumers using social media to communicate with companies has nearly doubled to 36%.

And the Gen Y group coming forward don’t see traditional communication tools as relevant. My 19-year-old son rarely emails. I think the last time he used the post was when he eight to send his granny a thank you note at Christmas. He’s indicative of the youth of today, if you want to get his attention, it has to be on social.

In just the same way that many bricks and mortar businesses ignored the threat of the ecommerce over a decade ago, those that think social won’t matter are mistaken. It might not matter to you, but it does to your customers, partners and employees who see social media and collaboration technology as a natural extension of the way they communicate every day. Companies that don’t have a social culture throughout their business within the next eighteen months risk losing ground to competitive brands.

The uptake of social in both private and business lives is moving at a rapid rate. In a recent annual survey, over 90% of respondents said they maintained a personal social networking profile, 92% used IM to communicate with colleagues about work and 25% used Facebook as their preferred IM client. Over 60% used social for research purposes, professional networking and learning about colleagues.

The driving force that made ecommerce a success was the demand from consumers and social is no different, already its impact can be seen on every aspect of a business. Yet surprisingly only 51% of companies have policies in place regarding the use of social media, leaving themselves either open to mistakes by employees a little too eager to be involved, or worse, no voice at all by staff too concerned at losing their position to join in.

This challenge is heightened in those regulated industries such as the Finance sector, where the fear of non-compliance has lead to the use of social media being banned in many organisations. Advances in technology now means that this fear is unfounded and unless those businesses recognise this, they will be overtaken by their more visionary and progressive competitors, particularly from outside the UK.

Companies that ignore fundamental changes in business models will always lose out to more agile competitors. Organisations that embrace social into their entire business won’t just have a corporate twitter account, but an army of employees, advocates and customers that are engaged with the company, helping to drive success.