Roger’s argument goes like this: given the massive social graph assembled by today’s social platforms, it’s hopeless to try and do to Facebook and Twiitter what these companies did to Friendster and MySpace. In fact, he’d like his fellow VCs to “stop trading dipshit little social companies for $15 million bucks and go do something really important.” Like invent what he calls the “hyperweb.” (I can’t explain this, but you can read about it here.)
Now, it’s probably been a while since Roger has worked in a Fortune 500 company (he’s had better things to do!), so we thought it was worth a quick post to reflect on the state of “social” in the enterprise, where it’s fair to say that the social web is far from over. In fact, its hard to argue that it’s really begun.
To start, we can’t even agree on what to call the application of the social web in the enterprise. Jive Software calls it the “consumerprise,” reflecting the idea that a whole set of consumer trends ranging from social computing to self-service apps are going to redefine how technology is used in the enterprise. They held an event this week to show press and analysts what this “consumerprise” looks like—imagine business people deciding what apps are going to make them most productive, and installing (and paying) for those apps on their own, just as they do on their iPhones. Appirio is a big believer in this trend—we were there at the event showing off a Jive app that allows salespeople to access their CRM from their community.
Yammer is focused on the “internal social network,” and is building a “system of engagement” that integrates with and complements the systems of record that have traditionally been the focus of enterprise IT. Yammer CEO David Sacks said “It is clear that every organization, regardless of industry, location or size, can benefit from enterprise social networking.”
Lithium is focused on social customer engagement. CMO Katy Keim articulated the idea well during her panel yesterday at AlwaysOn: “Companies are going to rethink what it means to be a customer. Social customers want more than just a transaction. They want to belong– companies will bring them in to develop, sell, and support products.” Lithium calls this idea Social CRM.
Salesforce.com is focused on building the “Social Enterprise.” This is the central theme of their upcoming Dreamforce conference, and Benioff claims that while Salesforce may have been “born cloud—today, we’re being reborn social.” Salesforce is offering customers an innovative platform for the Social Enterprise, giving companies a variety of ways to put a real relationship with customers at the center of everything they do, from marketing to sales to service to developing and delivering socially-enabled products and services. The first step is to engage with your customers on public social networks. Then you need to connect your employees together in your own social network. Finally, you’re ready to make all of your products and processes social. You can hear Benioff explain the vision here.
Again, we’re big believers in all these ideas. Our acquisition of the TRE3 Group formed the backbone of a rapidly growing Social Enterprise practice at Appirio, where we help companies figure all of this out. Because, not surprisingly, most companies DO need a little bit of help figuring all of this out.
No matter what you call it, most companies realize that social technology is just a means to an end—a method to accomplish specific business objectives. It’s a challenge to translate all of these ideas about social technology from the consumer internet into concrete benefits for a company. These are the type of questions we’re hearing from our enterprise customers:
- How do I translate my brand’s fans and “likes” into word of mouth referrals and cost-effective lead generation?
- How do I translate my sales team’s feeds and followers into shorter deal cycles and higher win rates?
- How do I translate my support team’s social graph into faster case resolution and more satisfied customers?
- How do I translate my customer’s ideas and suggestions into new, high value products and services?
There’s no easy answer to any of these questions. Which is exactly why (with due respect to Roger!), we’re a little skeptical that innovation in the social web is over… at least when applied to world of work.