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December 7, 2012

Q&A: Future trends in the social enterprise space

Rob Howard, founder of Telligent, sat down with CBR to discuss how social enterprise is evolving and key predictions for 2013.

By Tineka Smith

Rob Howard

Tell us a bit about your company

We are a community software company we build both public as well as private communities for our customers. We’ve had a tremendous amount of success in the UK and have done a lot of work with technology companies and the government space.
How has it been moving part of your company to Tech city?

Having a social software company in Tech city has been great for us. We’re right in the heart of city and have access to several agencies that we do work with. It’s allowed us to raise the image of the business being in a well known location surrounded by other technology companies.

What are some predictions for 2013 in the social enterprise space?

We have a number of predictions for 2013. One of them is that we see brands moving a lot of their investment off of what I would call ‘traditional’ social media and going back to ‘on-domain’ social media. They’ll start using communities again as the number one place where they are working with their customers. One of the primary reasons we see that happening is because of the value of the data that’s being created within those communities. I think this is going to be the year where organisations ( both enterprises and external facing communities) realise it’s not really the tools that matter as much, but the data that’s created out of those tools.

Another key trend we’re going to see is big data. It’s going to be very important and it’s gotten a lot of buzz. A lot of organisations are recognising that they have huge amounts of structured information in traditional CMS, content management tools and document management systems like SharePoint. The real value they can get as an organisation is from the unstructured systems that surround those structured information systems.

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A third key trend is this year we’re going to see the rise of the CIO especially within enterprises. As social has become less of a destination and more interwoven into how we conduct day-to-day business; the role of the CIO is going to be very important because he or she is going to be looking after the information and the applications that are created through these social systems. As these rise in importance CIOs are going to rise in importance to the organisation as well since they will protect a lot of the data that’s being created.

What are some social business trends you’ve seen happen this past year?

Pinterest has been a big trend that a lot of our customers have begun to look at and evaluate. Companies are trying to understand how media influences how people participate and its becoming another way that organisations are looking to share information about their business.

Organisations are also seeing a real difference between social media that’s relationship driven and social communities, which are business-objective driven. We have seen a tremendous shift towards very clear business objectives and purposes for the use of social versus using social just for the sake of having a social media application.

Personal and business social networks are popping up everywhere. Even large enterprises like Microsoft have launched social networks. Do you think the social media space is becoming over-saturated?

I think Microsoft’s social network is a great example of large consumer facing brands finding new ways to engage with customers. The reality is that the way we buy today is not driven by a brand name. I don’t go to HP to buy a laptop; I go to Google, do a search and then end up on Dell’s site because they effectively use community to engage their customers. As these organisations and brands begin to experiment with social I think we’ll see some interesting things happen. When I look at the different types of social media technologies that are out there today – which is one of the areas Microsoft looks like they’re hoping to compete – it’s a very crowded space.

Even market leaders like Google, which have done an amazing job with Google+, have colleagues and me asking why we would invest the time, energy and resources into another social media site when we’ve already made an investment in a place like Facebook. What’s new and different that it’s going to offer me that an existing social media community doesn’t provide me with? So from the consumer side I think a lot of these brands are really going to have to figure out how they’re going to be unique and different from everyone else that’s out there.

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