Ryan Holmes on Social Business Tools

Ryan Holmes does not do a great job unthreading externally-focused social media tools from internal work media tools, but maybe that’s to be expected since it’s not a neat and tidy world, but a mess of interconnected messes. One thing is clear though, it’s growing very quickly:

Ryan Holmes, What Is a Social Business App, Anyway? And Why Is the Market Booming?

Last year, 79 percent of 2,100 companies surveyed by Harvard Business Review reported that they use or plan to use social media. The average social media budget at enterprise-level businesses with more than 1,000 employees is $833,000, according to an already dated 2011 report from researcher Altimeter. In the next 5 years, marketers anticipate spending 19.5% of their budgets on social media, nearly three times the current level. And use of internal social networks [work media] in companies is up 50 percent from 2008, according to McKinsey and Co. After a slow start, big business has gone social in a big way.

Importantly, companies are using social media to do things that go way beyond just chatting up existing customers on Facebook. Sales departments use social to nurture leads and close sales. HR posts job openings and vets applicants. Community and support squads mine networks, blogs and forums with deep listening tools. Advertising departments get the word out on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And internal networks like Yammer let managers and employees engage in Facebook-like dialogue and collaboration behind the firewall.

Social media, in other words, has gone company-wide. It’s used not just to engage with customers but to connect employees, coordinate suppliers and streamline nearly every aspect of contemporary enterprise, writes USA Today’s Tim Mullaney. Not using social media in the workplace, in fact, is starting to make about as much sense as not using the phone or email.

No surprise that as companies have adopted social media en masse, demand for software and applications to manage and monitor social use has exploded. Enterprises are clamoring for one-stop, social solutions, explains Forbes’ Melissa Parrish: omnibus tools for pushing out content across multiple networks, listening, advertising, analyzing, managing customer relations and fostering internal dialogue.

And just as early Internet technologies slashed the cost of basic business tasks like mailing and filing, these social platforms promise to streamline more complex functions from R&D to design and project management. Take the example of SuperValu, the supermarket chain with thousands of stores around the world, which last year began using internal social network Yammer. So far, 11,000 of their executives and managers are on board, organized into 1,000 working groups. My favorite group: college town store managers, who recently came up with the brilliant idea of launching beer pong displays to draw in thirsty co-eds.

With such a clear use-case, social enterprise applications constitute one of tech’s fastest-growing sectors: expanding at a brisk clip of 61 percent per year and projected to become a $6.4 billion market by 2016. A recent industry report by Altimeter identified no fewer than 27 management systems targeted at big businesses. Plus, chief marketing officers – the main buyers of social enterprise apps – have seen their budgets expand dramatically in recent years. In fact, CMOs are expected to outspend CIOs on tech within five years, according to industry researcher Gartner.

Suddenly all those nine-digit acquisitions are starting to make a whole lot of sense.

It’s a social world, after all.

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