5 Predictions for 2012 in Enterprise Social

It’s the time of year once again to reflect and predict. It’s sort of like being the weatherman; you don’t get a lot of credit for getting it right, nor do you get a lot of disdain if you get it wrong. So, have fun with my predictions and make sure to bring your umbrella, just in case.

1. We still won’t agree on what to call it

This debate really started in 2010, but has continued to a point where people have stopped debating it and just call it different things. Enterprise 2.0, Social Business, Enterprise Social, Social Media for Business just to name a few. There are so many marketing stakes in the ground that we will probably never agree on what it’s called. The interesting part is that most business folks don’t even care, what they want is a clear concise message on how social makes their jobs easier and their companies better. In today’s economy, people are more worried about staying employed.

2. We’ll finally figure out that social’s value is measured by existing process metrics

Since I started in enterprise social back in 2008, there has been a consistent question around the ROI of social technologies. The industry and practitioners have been trying to provide metrics from the tools that indicate that social does indeed have a positive impact on business, with limited success. This past year, I saw quantitative ROI being tied to existing metrics. For example, social has reduced employee turnover by x% or by leveraging social our sales cycle has decreased by y weeks. In 2012, these existing metrics will be how social gets measured, across the board.

3. We’ll stop focusing so much on adoption and instead focus on solutions

“Adoption” and “Engagement” are the social buzzwords. While some see this as revolutionary, others just see this as simply picking up the ball that gets dropped in many organizations. I strongly believe that every technology deployment going forward should have an adoption component, but it’s a phase of a cycle (right after deployment), not a method. Now that Gartner & Forrester are talking more about social to mainstream audiences, it will be more about “Here’s what you can do with social” as opposed to “Here’s how you adopt social.”

4. The average large company will have no less than 4 social networks…unintentionally

Social by far has been one of the biggest surprises to large software vendors such as Oracle, SAP and Microsoft. The trend that Salesfoce.com has started will be copied by every large legacy system in the enterprise from ERP to HR to Finance. Each vertical solution will try to implement its own social layer (turned on by default) in hopes to sell more licenses for its core offering and spread to other organizations besides its specialty. This will lead to user fatigue inside the enterprise, as people will be either forced to choose or have to try to keep up with many. The integration will help, but it will still be difficult for most users to manage.

We are already starting to see stories of how people are leaving Facebook and feeling better about it. As the battle for the social layer heats up inside companies, people will begin to get overwhelmed at the amount of information that is available to them inside their organization. We see that people are great at following people and things, but there are many stigmatisms around unfollowing people (many caused by Facebook and public social networks) which will lead to what many believe is “Information Overload”.

5. Big Data struggles with unstructured information

There will be a lot of noise about Big Data being used to replacing the “Follow” model employed by many social solutions, but we are still a ways away from Big Data is able to effectively filter and correlate unstructured data. In these early stages, users will get mad at the immaturity of the algorithms and may even cause implementation failures.

While these predictions are hardly prophetic, I think that 2012 is the year where whatever we call it grows up and finds its proper place inside the enterprise. What predictions do you think will happen in 2012?

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