The recent surge in social-networking-services coupled with changing demographics and work styles, will lead 20% of employees to use social networks as their business communications’ hub by 2014, according to market research firm Gartner.
The wide range of capabilities that have emerged in communications, social Web and mobile, enables richer interactions among people and expands collaboration to a broader level with microblogging reshaping enterprise communications.
Vendors such as Microsoft and IBM will add links to internal and external social networks from within e-mail clients and servers, making services such as contacts, calendars and tasks shareable across e-mail and social networks.
The research firm projects that by 2012, contact lists, calendars and messaging clients in any smartphones will be social-enabled applications.
In addition, Gartner analysts expect to see growth rates for sales off premises and cloud-based social networking services with organisations deploying hybrid models where some services live on-premises and some are in the cloud.
Gartner predicts that the percentage of e-mail accounts on cloud services will grow to 10% by year-end 2012, up 7% from 2009.
From a vendor’s perspective, the market is consolidating around Microsoft and Research In Motion (RIM), and Gartner forecasts that by 2012, RIM and Microsoft will own 80% of the enterprise wireless e-mail software market.
Damovo UK portfolio manager Alex Donnelly said social networking services are starting to play an increasing role in business communications, especially with a new generation of workers entering business who expect such tools as the norm.
"This is being recognised by the likes of Microsoft who are plugging in ‘social connectors’ to services such as LinkedIn and Facebook as part of its latest unified communications offerings," Donnelly said.
"However, as with most emerging technologies it is important that social networking services are deployed for the right business reasons and are integrated properly with an organisation’s existing communications platforms.
"However, if implemented correctly, the use of social networks can help facilitate closer ties with employees and customers, with businesses then starting to see a tangible ROI."
SugarCRM VP Communications Martin Schneider said businesses are being creative in how they leverage social media to connect with prospects and customers.
"These networks can be goldmines for sales organisations; they are places where businesspeople gather and voluntarily give up information about their roles as decision-makers etc. Years ago, businesses had to pay dearly for lists of these types of people," Schneider said.
"Today, with a little effort on the Web, they can connect with hundreds of these people for little to no cost. I think we are just at the beginning of discovering all the ways we will perform sales and marketing activities through these exciting new channels."