Thursday, 17th January 2008
Tim Buckley Owen
At the end of 2007 we had the likes of Gartner and KPMG warning that corporate social networking might not be all it’s cracked up to be just yet. Yet now we have big names like Thomson, Experian, and KPMG again, saying ‘Go for it’.
Let’s start close to home, with Thomson. On January 15, it trumpeted its entry into the business-to-business social networking market with the acquisition of Contact Networks, and its enterprise relationship management product ContactNet.
ContactNet trawls data from address books, e-mail logs, customer relationship management applications and elsewhere to disclose, aggregate and prioritise a firm’s internal relationships with external business contacts. According to Thomson http://www.thomson.com/content/pr/tlr/tlr_legal/254565 determining who knows whom is now ‘as simple as doing a Google-like search’.
That begs KPMG’s earlier question http://web.vivavip.com/forum/LiveWire/read.php?i=3241 about whether employees will actually co-operate in the sharing of their precious contact information. But a subsequent KPMG report, Enterprise 2.0: the Benefits and Challenges of Adoption http://www.kpmg.co.uk/news/docs/E2.0%20The%20Benefits%20and%20Challenges%20of%20adoption.pdf finds companies confident that it will eventually deliver business benefits – although they’re still not clear how to measure those benefits and remain worried about security.
This apparent preoccupation at present with internal applications for 2.0 technology is borne out by a further survey, from US-based ChangeWave Research. Surveying from among its 13,000-strong alliance of senior technology and business executives in leading companies http://digbig.com/4wfss ChangeWave foresees an ‘explosion’ in corporate use of 2.0 software – but largely for internal purposes.
Improving employee communication, increasing efficiency and productivity, and better internal collaboration with business partners are the main reasons for web 2.0 use at the moment, ChangeWave finds. External applications – improving customer service and support, brand awareness and loyalty, and sales – are likely to come later.
But not much later if a discussion paper from Experian Integrated Marketing http://digbig.com/4wfst is anything to go by. According to Social Networking in 2008, the year will herald the arrival of the Web 2.0 ‘super advocate’; operating in exclusive gated communities, they will constitute a formidable concentration of expert consumer power.
‘Highly influential figures, outspoken and with loyal following, super advocates will have the power in the 2.0 world to make or break a brand’s reputation at will,’ Experian warns. The super advocate will represent one of the biggest challenges facing companies trying to tap into social media as an advertising and marketing channel, it continues. ‘They need to be quickly identified and then kept on side, avoiding commercialism at all costs.’
All the signs are that the forecasters are thrashing around at present, trying to decide what the first corporate 2.0 killer app will be. But whether it’s customer relationship management, internal collaboration or super advocacy, information professionals should be able to cash in.
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