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The 2010 Social Business Landscape

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The blurring of the lines between the consumer Internet and the business world has continued apace this year. I’ve begun referring to this phenomenon as CoIT when it happens in the workplace, but that’s not quite the full story either. What has happened is that social media has become one of the biggest mass changes in global behavior in a generation (since the advent of the Internet itself.) Over the last few years, the meme around social has filtered down into countless activities and processes across the business world, giving rise to now significant trends like Enterprise 2.0, Social CRM, customer communities, and so on. Keeping track of all this has officially become a full-time job and those just getting familiar with the Social Business world have a lot to absorb to get oriented.

To help with keeping up with the fast moving pace of Social Business, we’ve created a useful new model aimed at helping you stay up-to-date with the major moving parts of Social Business today. We define Social Business here as the distinct process of applying social media to meet business objectives.

Click to Enlarge

The Social Business Power Map, presented above, is an attempt to identify the major social media trends, how they can be mapped generally along consumer/enterprise axes, and where they are in terms of their overall maturity level today. Note that many of the aspects of social media in the consumer Web side is also heavily used in the enterprise side, while the reverse is generally not the case. This map is as exhaustive as space allows but inevitably some items had to be omitted. Any all such omissions are my fault alone. The items on this Power Map are rated on the following scale:

  1. Buzz: A newer social media trend, technology, or approach that is both compelling and getting attention at the moment but its staying power and ultimate fate are still unclear.
  2. Experimentation: These currently have some fairly widespread interest but lack of broad commitment from either Web companies or businesses. They may eventually hit mainstream adoption, but may also enter the dustbin of Social Business if they fail to show promise.
  3. Adoption: These are aspects of social media which are currently experiencing broad uptake but have not yet broken out to a majority audience. They are all likely to become mainstream. It’s still possible that some of them will fade away before then or be replaced by something newer though it’s not highly likely.
  4. Maturity: These are all widely used and very popular aspects of social media. They all have global reach and most Internet users either consume or participate in them. Note that enterprise social media currently has no aspects that are yet in a mature state, but that will likely change soon with Enterprise 2.0, customer communities, and Social Media Marketing about to cross over.

The following major social media trends were identified as significant players at the moment, either because they are currently receiving a lot of attention or they are getting a notable real-world uptake.

The Elements of the Social Business Power Map

In rough order from top to bottom, this list represents what those in social media need a good grasp of at a strategic level in order to be effective. Depending on your industry, specific ratings on the maturity scale may be slightly different, but all of these elements must be in the vocabulary of those seeking to tap into the business benefits.

  • Social Analytics. Effectively participating in social media as an organization requires a lot of listening, but how do you make sense of the totality of what you’ve heard? Enter social analytics, which has recently seen a major uptick, from virtually no discussion of it in 2008. Many organizations are now realizing that, like Web analytics was early on in Web, social analytics will be crucial for obtaining a strategic understanding of what’s taking place in social media, either on the Internet or within their organizations. The hold-up preventing widespread experimentation in social analytics at the moment is that there are still too few vendors and even fewer compelling and mature products.
  • Social Dashboards. iGoogle showed how many people would use a dashboard (hundreds of millions) and now there are now too many dashboard products for social media to count. They range from feed readers to apps like the popular TweetDeck, which provide a convenient way to consume and participate with Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, FourSquare, and others. Enterprise equivalents now exist, and are typically included as features of the more mature enterprise social software suites. At this time, most users are experimenting with social dashboards but they have not collectively broken out into a full-on adoption climb. Aggregating of social experiences will become increasingly important however and dashboards are well positioned to solve a significant portion of the channel fragmentation challenge of social media.
  • Microblogging. With the rise of Twitter and its approximately 200 million users, microblogging has hit it big though it’s still not quite mainstream. The convenience and format of microblogging ensures that just about anyone can participate and this has made it very popular online and increasingly so in many businesses today. However, social networks remain overall more compelling for many despite often having a similar status message format. Those seeking the simplest and most straightforward social experience however are finding microblogging attractive. Expect microblogging to proceed to the mainstream level in the next year or two in the consumer side and a year or two later in the enterprise space, for which the tools are still emerging.
  • Mobile Social. I covered this more detail in my recent Six Social Business Trends To Watch post. The world of social media is moving to mobile devices in a big way this year. Social networking apps for iPhone and Android remain among the top applications for those devices, particularly each platforms’ respective apps for Facebook. More compellingly, some of the most interesting new mobile social apps, like FourSquare, will only really function on GPS-enabled devices. Mobile social is on a fast rising adoption curve and will hit the mainstream in relatively short order (as in next year) as new large-scale usage trends take hold, such as the move entirely away from desktops, and even laptops, towards truly capable mobile devices like smartphones and slates (also known as ultra mobiles) such as the iPad. As for enterprise adoption, a recent survey by Citrix indicated that surprising 84% of businesses will not only allow iPads in the workplace but will actively support them. What this all means for mobile social in the enterprise is less clear but it will be significant.
  • Social Location. This trend is tightly coupled with mobile social since effective location-based services typically requires hardware-based GPS. More and more social applications are becoming location-aware and it’s telling that Facebook has apparently decided to join in the ‘check-in’ bandwagon to compete with potential location-aware rivals like FourSquare. That said, location is definitely a good bit behind the broader adoption wave to mobile social. However, it’s on target to become an integral part of Social Business as location-enabled mobile apps get better at mining the value of physical location with new features and capabilities such as better contextual advertising and improved Social Shopping.
  • Federated Social Identity. While OpenID and Facebook For Websites (the identity feature formerly known as Facebook Connect) are taking the lead at the moment, there is still a long way to go before there is a real social identity victor. Federated identity, a technical sounding term that really just means you can select the user ID service of your choice and use it on any social service you’d like, inside or outside of the firewall. A robust and usable federated social identity that automatically brings your social graph, avatar, and other personal data is barely on the radar today and mostly consists of individual standards (see Open Standards for Social Media, below). There is a good chance that OpenID will add many of the needed capabilities, but the jury is still out and most social identity today really isn’t very social, yet.
  • Crowdsourcing. I’ve explored the growing promise of crowdsourcing many times in the past and great many experiments over the years have proven the model out fairly conclusively. Yet uptake has not been as broad as it might be because of the perceived shift of control issues combined with lack of familiarity and competence in crowdsourcing by most businesses. Fortunately, given the rise of innovation programs based on the crowdsourcing model, recent success stories, and other independent data points. Expect it to start climbing the adoption curve in 12-18 months. Most organizations should start planning this year to ensure they get first mover advantage, which really matters when trying to build a community of contributors in an industry or vertical market.
  • Facebook Connect/FFW. Now called Facebook for Websites, the uptake for this feature has been very strong across the Web given how much it increases the percentage of users that register, up to 2 out of 3 new registrations by some estimates. Over one million Web sites have integrated with Facebook and climbing fast. Though many organizations are reluctant to overly depend on Facebook to manage their user data, the risks can be managed and it has become a leading way to access a user’s personal information and social data upon request. FFW will probably remain in the adoption phase for a couple of more years and has the potential to be disrupted by more open social identity systems.
  • Social Search and Recommendation. The information that our friends are interested in is what we’re likely to be interested goes the theory. Social search is already part of the Google search engine, making it score higher on the Power Map than it otherwise would. Another way to look at timely knowledge that flows through the news feeds and activity streams of our favorite social networks is “search that finds you”. Mostly a consumer Web phenomenon, with leaders such as Mahalo and Wikia there are some business players. For example, Vivisimo’s Discovery Module has an especially interesting enterprise social search capability. Thus social search as well as recommendations are a significant and growing element of the social Web today. Social recommendations are already featured in many Facebook applications and other popular services such as Yelp. Social search has not, however, consistently found its way in terms of prime mover utility to grow a major service or revolutionize business processes yet. It will likely enter the adoption phase in the coming 24 months as more products are designed around the potential and ways to access ROI is more focused.
  • Community Management. All social communities require some level of community management, which I dubbed an “essential” capability for Enterprise 2.0 last year. Almost always under anticipated at first (after all, most of us are just learning about large scale online communities and what they need to survive and thrive), community management has steadily gotten more respectable and the some of the credit it so richly deserves, though there’s a long way to go. As a result of the growing community management competence of many large-scale commercial communities and many successful customer communities, ad hoc and otherwise, this capability has had a great year. One part best practices, one part enabling technology, and two parts dedicated people, this skill is well into the adoption phase (all successful online communities today have the skill set and staff). Community management is on target to become mainstream in the enterprise within 36 months, even if it’s nearly mainstream on the consumer Web today.
  • Social Networking Surpasses E-mail Data by Comscore Visual by XPLANESocial Networks, Blogs, and Wikis. As we start heading into 2011, it’s clear that social networking has become truly mainstream at a global scale. The data on the right shows that social networking is the now most used Internet communication tool today, with usage having eclipsed e-mail — the previous #1 method of communication — entirely. This is a sea change in societal behavior for which businesses are still now only beginning to understand the implications. Blogs have been mainstream for years and wikis exist by the tens of millions. In fact, virtually every medium and large sized business now has at least one wiki installation. What’s left? Social networking is now expected to surpass the top used application online, Internet search, in the near future. There is little likelihood that social networking will be disrupted in the near term though certainly most businesses have not yet adopted them internally and many current block their use from inside the firewall. Unfortunately, the number of businesses blocking access to social networks is going up, not down as they continue to get a handle on managing the perceived risks of social networking.. See my discussions on CoIT and how workers are increasingly using their own IT to route around excessive control of their channels of communication.
  • Social Gaming. As my colleague Bryan Kotlyar said to me recently, “many people’s primary experience with social networking is with Farmville”. Farmville has become an enormously popular social game that has proved out the sector to be a rapidly-growing one. There have been many discussions of social game theory as a high-engagement way to maximize the value creation of structured user participation. Strategic thinkers like John Seely Brown has famously extolled multiplayer games as a better way to manage knowledge and work together. For now what’s clear that social gaming is a rapidly expanding consumer phenomenon that combines the high virality of social media with the focused outcomes of structured play. Expect social gaming to start to enter the enterprise world within two years (prediction markets are an early herald of what’s to come here), it will only become more significant and mature in the social media universe.
  • Social Shopping When friends come together in social media to participate in the shopping process, the result is referred to as social shopping. While sites that are built around or offer social shopping features have been around for years, often tied closely to the fashion industry, it’s only be in the last year that social shopping has started to get serious attention. Grouped into three major categories, social shopping services can include group-buying, shopping communities, and social product recommendations. Typical offerings include BazaarVoice, Kaboodle, and Shop Socially. As retailers and other businesses catch on to the techniques and the features become more integrated into e-commerce platforms, social shopping is poised for major experimentation in the coming several years.
  • Open Standards For Social Media. Standards for social media have not fared very well other than for the syndication standards RSS and maybe Atom. Standards are vital for new technologies to thrive because they create choice, reduce costs, increase the pool of knowledge, reduce the risks of lock-in and many other benefits. On the downside, standards can create a lowest common denominator effect and reduce innovation by proscribing advances that color outside the lines. Yes despite this, some Web standards specific to social media are climbing the maturity curve, mostly around the key functions of social networks. Except for OpenSocial, these standards are largely being ignored by businesses at this time, despite the great stake they have in shaping their future. For more details on these standards, you can consult my in-depth examination of the Social Web Technologies for 2010, but the ones to track are Portable Contacts (PoCo), Salmon Protocol, OStatus, PubSubHubbub, and xAuth in the Buzz category, Activity Streams (now used by Facebook, MySpace, and others), OpenSocial, and OAuth in Experimentation, and OpenID in the Adoption phase. For now, most organizations should focus on OpenID and keep an eye on the uptake and adoption of the others. See here for my in-depth discussion of OAuth, OpenID, and FFW and their significance to user adoption of social applications. Few social standards have lasted long or been successful but there is a sense now that we are starting to zero on the ones that we really need. Future Power Maps will track their progress.
  • Social CMS. Drupal has apparently won the social CMS wars in the open source space with literally tens of millions of users. With this, traditional content management systems will never be the same and Drupal has shown how success is defined in this space by having a common sense open architecture, a rich plug-in ecosystem, and embodiment of best practices for social CMS. I’m also bullish on enterprise versions of Drupal, like Acquia. Yet there remains a nagging feeling that social software suites (see below) may ultimately become the center of focus for social in the workplace. Social CMS is the last mainstream model of social media but there is long-term potential for trouble as consumer social networks and enterprise social software suites begin to encroach on the feature space.
  • Unified Communication with Social Media. The enterprise world of unified communication has amazingly had very little unification with social media. But that is starting to change with the advent of social media aware unified communication products such as Lotus SameTime and arguably Cisco Quad, which got the lion’s share of attention of such products recently. However it’s mostly buzz at this time but unified communication will reconcile with social media soon enough as I predicted earlier this year in my 10 Emerging Enterprise 2.0 Technologies To Watch list.
  • Expertise Location. Despite years of promoting the fact that social tools let people find out who knows what, dedicated tools like FineBrain and features in well-known tools such as Jive’s Social Business Suite are finally coming to the fore. While still an emerging category, expertise location is expected to become a key capability as enterprise start going social in a major way.
  • Social ECM. The often-stodgy vendors of enterprise content management (ECM) platforms have been incorporating more and more social media capabilities into their products in the last year. OpenText is leading the way here and most other vendors I’m tracking are following suit. You can get a sense of how many by looking at the blue space in my full breakdown last year of Enterprise 2.0 tools.
  • Enterprise 2.0. The use of social media to drive collaborative performance has been a hot topic for several years know. I’ve covered this in great detail elsewhere and we’re now seeing that adoption is well under way and is likely to be the first major enterprise use of social media to hit the mainstream (most people in most enterprises engage in it) sometime in the next 12-24 months.
  • Social Media Command Centers. Gatorade famously made a splash earlier this year with their high-gloss social media command center and I think it’s safe to say that generated enormous interest in the concept. As social media becomes a critical channel to engagement in and deal with, command centers (more practically realized as virtual tools and teams than physical ones) are going to be a hot topic with widespread experimentation consisting of integrated sets of monitoring, analytics, and engagement tools increasingly happening in the next year..
  • OpenSocial Apps for the Enterprise. Jive and SocialText have added support for internal only OpenSocial applications that lets enterprise build or buy business apps that tap into their worker’s social capital. It’s still very early stage yet but now that the app containers and providers exist, it’s likely that this will grow into a strong ecosystem in the next couple of years particularly if an enterprise app store is successfully built to create a low-barrier distribution conduit for business-grade OpenSocial solutions.
  • Enterprise Syndication. The proliferation of social media on the Web drove the need for syndication. Now enterprises are in the same situation but vendors have been struggling in this space for a long time now with poor enterprise-friendly syndication management tools and inadequate feed readers. That’s still only changing slowly as enterprise users are just now grasping how much their intranets are starting to look and work like today’s highly social Web. I expect this functionality to increasingly appear in social software suites and enterprise integration platforms like ESBs.
  • Social Media Monitoring. Being able to listen to social media has now become an imperative for a large percentage of organizations and it’s been a banner year for listening platforms from organizations such as Radian6, Sysomos, and BuzzLogic. Expect it to remain a high growth adoption-phase trend for the next 12-18 months and the move to maturity.
  • Social Media Marketing. Marketing departments were one of the very first groups to get involved in social media and they are nearly ready to move into the maturity phase of adoption. While the best social media marketing campaigns are combinations of traditional and social media as part of an integrated approach, social media is where the growth and deeper opportunities will lie for the foreseeable future.
  • Crisis Management. Combined with a good social media listening capability, identifying brand and customer crises and then responding effectively to them will be a capability that many organizations will build in the coming years. Expect lots of improvement in practices and methods as companies determine where best to locate and organize around this increasingly important capability that wasn’t required in the days before customers had louder voices collectively than most organizations.
  • Social Software Suites. The premise with suites is that it makes sense to create an integrated whole out of the standards set of Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, activity streams, social networks, social dashboards, and microblogs with the security, audit, archiving, and other business requirements that enterprises expect. Collaboration industry-leader SharePoint 2010 recently added many of these features while others such as Lotus Connections, Jive Social Business Suite, and SocialText have had them for a while now. Most CIOs and other senior decision makers looking to activate on the promise of Enterprise 2.0 are going to focus on the proven and ready-to-go aspect of suites in their evaluation efforts and it appears that they are increasingly favored for company-wide deployments while individual tools are selected to match specific, high value problems.
  • Customer Communities. Creating or participating in customer communities is something that most organizations must do yet many of them are missing the opportunity, despite 70% of senior managers recently reporting that they offer significant business value. I’ve explored this paradox before and the urgency of letting customers engage before they go elsewhere to create their own or find companies that will work with them. .
  • Enterprise Microblogs. Twitter virtually created and proved out the value of making social communication simple and compact. Now the command-line of social media is coming to the enterprise. While still in the experimentation phase for most organizations, microblogging will be commonplace and growing in adoption towards a mainstream breakout in 18-24 months.
  • Social Supply Chains. Companies such as Inovis have been proving out what is possible when you bring social computing to the supply chain. I explored social supply chains in detail recently and while it’s still in early stages, those who are using it are achieving significant benefits. At this point, social supply chain will be well in the adoption phase in 24-36 months.

This is a lot to track and we’ll be expanding and updating the Social Business Power Map in the future as needed. We very much welcome your comments, contributions, and requests for correction and you can contact me directly via e-mail or in comments below. I’d also like to thank Dachis Group contributors Bryan Menell, Lars Plougman, Bryan Kotlyar, Tom Cummings, Peter Fasano, and Cynthia Pflaum.