- Enterprise social network
- Customer experience
- Innovation management
- Sales enablement
- Digital commerce
Anyway, on to the data. This slide shows the latest response to the question of why companies are using social software.
Now I've come to expect changes year over year, but I have to say that this year, I'm very surprised by the dramatic shift in a few of the responses. First note that the #1 reason for using social for business last year, acquire knowledge/ask questions, is now #14, or next to last. Last year over 50% of the respondents answered acquire knowledge, yet this year, not even 10% ranked it. In fact the entire top 5 is different this year.
So let's look at the top five and see if we can understand the change in less than a year. The first thing that jumps out at me is that the number one answer, gather feedback on company product or service, leverages the power of engaging customers, partners and employees in building a better product or service…or in other words bringing all the constituents into the innovation process. For me, this has always seemed like one of the most compelling use cases for social tools. Last year I added coverage on a new market called innovation management mostly because of the need for businesses to innovate and manage innovation in a new way, and the opportunity that social technologies create to add value in the innovation process. So number one is about building better products or services, and the definition of better is tied to feedback from all constituents.
I've written and talked about the elevated importance of customer service in the era of the social customer for awhile. It appears from the #2 answer in the survey that companies are adopting social customer service as a critical use case. Actually #2 and #5 are related to the use of social for communicating, supporting and engaging customers. More and more I'm talking to companies about customer experience, social tools and processes are an important part of the strategy. Meeting customers when, where and how the customer chooses is not optional.
The area that is a little surprising to me is how fast businesses seem to be looking at the potential to use social tools to engage partners and suppliers. I do think there's a lot of potential, but it certainly has moved up the ladder of importance faster than I would have guessed. On the supplier side, it's clear that supplier networks are a powerful tool, and considering Ariba was founded in the late 1990's, I guess they're some of the oldest business social networks.
Considering the rapid growth and adoption of social tools it's interesting to see the shift in attitude as companies start to see the use of social as a competitive advantage. With "keeping up with the competition" as the #3 reason for adopting social tools, that's quite a change for this year and will drive spending in a market that is already seeing near 50% year over year growth.
For the first time last year companies started to talk about social tools, particularly socialytics, as decision support aids. I think this a sign of maturity and of the increasing importance of social systems to businesses. Make decisions moved up from #10 to #7 in this years survey. That's less progress than some reasons, but still a significant reflection of the increasing importance of social data to decision makers.
Perhaps the area that will surprise many is the fall of the internal communication type use cases in the overall set of responses. Again, I think this is a maturing of the space as companies are learning and incorporating other use cases. Employee collaboration is still an important issue and provides opportunity for productivity gains, but some other uses have started to gain more as their value is becoming more apparent. The one internal use case that is gaining from last year is social leaning. "Conduct employee training" moved from next to last to #8 this year.
Some very telling shifts in responses this year. What do you think, does your business use of social tools resemble the survey?
(Cross-posted @ Michael Fauscette)