This special report introduces thought-leading research from Gartner that business and IT leaders can use to guide their enterprises toward new ways of doing business with the aid of social media.
Since 2010, interest in Gartner's Business Gets Social Key Initiative has skyrocketed. Social media has moved from the experimental stage to business imperative. Early implementations that exploited the social Web's reach and velocity have turned into strategic initiatives designed to take advantage of mass collaboration. Social media affords a way to tap the collective insight of employees, customers, business partners and the social Web even if determining the precise value of social initiatives remains a challenge. Gartner's research addresses the breadth of topics that social media leaders need to think about and plan for as they nudge their enterprise toward becoming a social business. The research we highlight here should help leaders of social media initiatives to develop or refine their enterprise's approach to this significant, disruptive and exciting change in how business is conducted. We have organized our reports into four categories:
Seeking social intelligence.
Socially-enabling the business.
People add 5 petabytes of information to the Web each day, reflecting the attitudes, intentions and venues of businesses and consumers. Social networks will have more than 1 billion users by the end of 2012, and the artifacts users leave behind in social networks provide a treasure-trove of insight. In fact, some enterprises already mine this accumulation of conversations, comments, ratings and rankings for "social intelligence." Enterprises should do more to mine this data in order to uncover forward-looking intelligence, increase innovation, generate demand, and improve marketing, distribution and customer service. However, analyzing so many different kinds of data artifacts, including unstructured and rich media, and the sheer volume of data pose a major challenge for the IT organization. Then it must integrate the insights gained into enterprise processes.
Tactics and trends:
Social media is changing the way business is conducted. It enables rapid mass collaboration and creates transparency by allowing formerly hidden social structures to emerge. The information generated in social networks can inform operational processes, facilitate engagement with employees, customers, business partners and the social Web, and create new business opportunities. Social media can transform business functions beyond marketing and customer service — use cases address a broad range of internal and external business functions. However, fear and uncertainty leads many enterprises to do nothing about social media or, worse, try to lock down employee access to social networks. Enterprises need prudent social media policies and disciplines, or they will be left behind by more adept competitors.
The boundaries between social and other kinds of techniques and technologies grow continually fainter. There are some independent social offerings, while other social capabilities appear in collaboration suites — many available free or near-free in the cloud. Traditional software vendors include social capabilities in business applications, such as CRM and HR. Over time, the boundaries between social and collaborative applications (such as, email, instant messaging and texting) and business applications (such as finance or sales) will blur, and social capabilities will augment transactional activities. In an environment in which social blends with other applications, business and IT leaders should not consider only a specific business function when they develop requirements for social solutions. They should consider all of a worker's responsibilities and activities when planning business application investments.
IT leaders must also keep the underlying technology hidden when they give workers social capabilities. Users of public social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, and of enterprise solutions built with tools such as IBM Lotus Connections and NewsGator don't care about the technology beneath their tools. They want to connect with others and build productive relationships without extra steps or leaving the environment in which they are working. Solutions that make technology obvious and awkward will fail — and the business processes they support will suffer, too.
Many enterprises struggle to determine the right approach and timing for their social initiatives. Often, they do not coordinate social initiatives and have too narrow an idea of the use cases that social media can support. Most do not start with a purpose aligned to the goals of both the enterprise and the participants. Vendors fuel the hype around social media as they try to capitalize on enterprise investments, and the hype confuses decision makers. To optimize their investments, enterprises must establish a shared understanding of social technologies and trends, and coordinate strategies and initiatives.