The Three Phases of Enterprise Social Media

I’m recently getting pulled into a number of discussions about the direction of the social media market and how this affects enterprise computing. I would agree with skeptics of the “social enterprise” that this market segment is still evolving, but as with the business internet, the shift in consumer behavior to social platforms will ultimately require enterprises to adapt as well.

My thoughts are that the evolution of Enterprise Social Media breaks into three phases. Upfront I’ll acknowledge that these phases may overlap:

  1. Social Media Monitoring (SMM)
  2. Social Media Analytics  (SMA)
  3. Social Media Integration (SMI) and Enterprise Social Media

I’ll briefly describe each of these, then save more detailed analysis for later posts.

Social Media Monitoring (SMM)

Social Media Monitoring (SMM) is the foundation of Enterprise Social Media. SMM is the basic listening function that all social products need to have. SMM enables a company to hear what social media users are saying about their company, products, brands, or even specific people. In general, listening is configured on a keyword, theme, or identify basis. The vast majority of listening tools require a human being to run the tool, and interpret the data. I liken SMM to the contrast knob on a color TV; you only notice it when it’s not there.

Most of the social media tools (over 100!) are in this stage of development. They provide basic monitoring, but they also require a human being to manage the application, and don’t provide any aggregated summaries or intelligence.

Tools such as Radian6 dominate the SMM market, which is generally seen in marketing and marketing communications teams.

Social Media Analytics (SMA)

The more advanced SMM applications include embedded analytics. These analytics range from simple post counts and tag clouds to deeper textual analysis and Natural Language Processing (NLP). These monitoring tools that include analytics I categorize as Social Media Analytics (SMA).

With SMA, the raw social data is transformed into some type of measurable framework that customers can use to track changes in social media. So, words and posts are converted to a numbers. Some SMA applications include reporting of the social content in forms that can be distributed to non-social media experts, and without need for humans to be involved in their creation. Other SMA tools provide the ability to mash up the SMA data with Microsoft Excel™, so that customers can correlate SMA data with revenue, trouble tickets, marketing leads, or other internal measures. However, with SMA this correlation of social media with the business is still an outboard, discrete operation. As an example, a number of companies such as Dell and Gatorade have established “social listening” teams which use SMA to track the social impact of their products or brands. These social listening groups are eerily similar to the “dotcom subsidiaries” of the 90′s; discrete standalone groups that are not integrated with the overall business.

Radian6, Visible Technologies, and Buzzient all provide applications for SMA.

 Social Media Integration (SMI) and Enterprise Social Media

At some point, customers awaken to the need to fully integrate social media with business operations. As opposed to relegating social to the niche social listening squads, prescient companies realize that social media is enterprise content just like other data forms, and thus needs to be embedded in existing processes and workflows. With this shift comes the need for bringing social into the application user’s experience, in as native and natural a means as possible.

For example, a customer service representative looking at a client’s record would also want to integrate their Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare feeds into the client history. As opposed to waiting for the social listening team to share with them the “voice of the customer”, the customer service team can independently capture the social media relevant to customers, and assess how best to service the customer using social data as the catalyst.

Just as the Internet proved to be a powerful new channel for Enterprises, and eventually cut across all business functions (not just the dotcom subsidiary), social media is in the process of enabling customer service, HR, sales, QA, ERP and other corporate functions to directly interact with customers over social channels. The full integration of social with multiple business functions is the ultimate realization of Enterprise Social Media, where Social CRM, Social ERP, Social HCM, all emerge as the next iterations of existing application categories.

Buzzient is the only company positioned to integrate social media with multiple, heterogeneous business applications; Buzzient integrates social media seamlessly with Oracle, Salesforce, Infor, Interactive Intelligence and other applications.

As customers think about social media, it’s critical to understand what tools they have, as well as where these specific tools fall on the maturity path of phases 1-3.