Last December, we wrote about where we thought the Social Media market would be for 2010. Now that 2010 is more than half over, I thought I would share my thoughts on the state of the market. In short, we are seeing an acceleration of the market factors; adoption, participation, application sophistication, business integration, and saturation. Yes, I said saturation.
In addition to our social strategy and marketing consulting, we have done probably 30-40 social market audits over the last 6 months and we have seen some key trends emerge:
- Public Social Networks – As the mega social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) continue to grow, we also see signs of saturation and even fatigue. Last year, we found that at least half of the larger companies were conducting pilots, but now we are finding almost 60-70% of all mid and large companies are experimenting. In many markets, first mover advantage is no longer applicable. Social participation has reached a critical point in the market that new entrants will have a hard time getting through to the target market. There are so many other competitors, complimentary, and even irrelevant providers vying for attention that buyers are shutting down to broadcast messaging. “How many thought leadership links can I click on from Twitter?” As decision makers are tuning out the SPAM messaging, the requirements for relevancy is becoming the “new norm”; which is a sign that social media is maturing. Websites followed the same path; once the hype of having a website passed, the requirement became to have a “good” website. Guess what, social media is following the same path. Not about how many spam messages or friends, but relevant interactions that assist buyers in making decisions relevant to them. Quality is starting to emerge as a stronger criteria versus quantity. Thankfully.
- Enterprise Social Media – We are seeing an interesting trend within larger enterprises desiring to implement their own communities for customers, employees, partners, etc.; 6 months ago, we found that ~20% of company executives “got it” at some level about applicability for social interactions; hence why we started the Social Executive Council. But, lately we are seeing a significant uptake in interest and much greater external validation for the recommendations that we are making for organizations. The value of the “collaboration” capabilities and the “customer experience” support that these platforms provide is being recognized. Even more encouraging, we are seeing a much greater recognition from the enterprise platform vendors that they must mature their platforms to enable a more flexible social experience. No longer can organizations just drop in a social “box” application and expect adoption. Now, organizations expect integration into their existing information architecture, flexibility in the ability to deploy components of functionality, move beyond “reports” to business intelligence and data warehousing. In short, enterprise social media platforms are “growing up”. Even Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 is starting to evolve in the right direction.
- Software Vendors – A year ago, we still had to do some education and justification on why software vendors need social engagement built into their applications. Collaboration with peers is the fundamental requirement for working as a team. Many business application providers were trying to figure out if they really needed to make the investment in the applications. No longer as we are finding every vendor that we speak with discussing their collaboration and social media capabilities in some form. Next challenge for them all – how do you play together? As a user, I do not want to have 6 different “social” applications with separate logins and separate discussion threads, bookmarks, calendars, etc. Open APIs to enable the import/export of these capabilities so you can fit into the larger enterprise information architecture which will already have a “social framework”. Better yet, enable the ability to link my social framework to your workflow within your applications to enable more modularized functionality. Allow me to pull in “widgets” of your functionality into sections of my community, allow me to model and then map your application into my business process.
- Social Data – This is the area that I have seen the most growth this year. CIOs, Business Intelligence, Marketing, Customer Care, Product Management and even Sales organizations are really waking up to how valuable, critical, and potentially overwhelming all this social data can be for organizations. If you are a multi-contact center with 1000 contacts a day, but you get 5000 mentions that need processing; you cannot manage the social contacts (most of which are not relavent) in the same way. I have written about how the semantic tools are still not mature enough for filtering these automatically, you need a triage workflow. Otherwise, if you manually touched even 30% of those mentions for review; you might find your contact center growing 2-3 times in size to manage the volume. On the other side, this social data may be worth more than the transactions themselves for some companies. Recommendation engines for ecommerce will improve dramatically if you can include psychographic information beyond mere transactional and demographics. Lead scoring becomes more accurate and far more valuable if you can determine a shopper from a browser. All of which is just in its infancy, but we are seeing savvy business leaders waking up to the potential. Vendors are rapidly improving their analytics and algorithms. Look for huge advances in the technologies within the next 6-12 months. Look for major pilots across most of the major enterprises.
- Customer Expectations – We have probably done at least 30-40 social market audits over the last 6 months and we have seen consistently across markets:
- Buyers are valuing peer influence over vendor marketing
- Most sellers sell the way they want to, but not the way buyers need
- The noise is so overwhelming that buyers are moving to a “trusted” management model to evaluate who they believe, who is externally credentialed, and validate market statements
- Social market research can provide as much or more market insight than traditional market research or analyst reports
- Customers are increasingly becoming savvy and cynical about self-serving market messaging and communications
- Customers are experiencing more SPAM and tuning out more
- Customers expect real-time customer experiences; information, response, service, and value
A good measure of how the “enterprise social” market and adoption is picking up is to look at the gap this summer between posts. We have been busy and as a result, I have spent more time in client engagements rather than evangelizing the market. Additionally, we launched the Social Executive Council (SEC) for senior executives. This is a closed Linkedin Group for senior executives to share best practices and collaborate. We already have 25% of the Fortune 100 represented in the first 5 months. Our focus is increasingly in working with these senior executives to incorporate Enterprise Social Strategy to socially enable their enterprises.
We are working with the board of the SEC to incorporate the group into a non-profit industry association, develop a national local chapter footprint, and begin to build the SEC as a framework for executives to vet all of the technology and miscellaneous vendors that will be required to support the adoption of a social enterprise framework. We are practicing what we preach in leveraging social technologies to transform the way our market engages to better support our customers buying processes. In short, this is the true potential for the state of the enterprise social market in that we are seeing the first signs that this will have transformative impact on enterprise markets.