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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 choose 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, though 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) and is on target to become mainstream in the enterprise within 36 months, even if it’s nearly mainstream on the consumer Web today.
- Social 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 …