Enterprise social applications such as Yammer and IBM Connections are finally starting to make major inroads into businesses. Half of all large businesses will have internal, Facebook-like social networks by 2016, according to Gartner Inc. And 30% will consider those social networks to be essential parts of the business, the research firm claims. But enterprise applications can't simply stand on their own.
While standalone enterprise social programs are great for looking for expertise in a given business location or for general idea generation, the true benefit won't come from standalone, Facebook-like applications, but from integrating social media directly with existing enterprise applications, says Gartner analyst Jenny Sussin.
Today, vendors and buyers are approaching social as something separate from existing activities in marketing, customer service, and other areas. Unfortunately, keeping enterprise social as a separate application can lead to disparate customer profiles and histories, making it difficult to measure the business impact of social media.
Some organizations are already starting to experiment with social prospecting, which takes social profile data about a prospect or client and includes it in the CRM application along with conversation history and other data. “This could be used in maintaining client relationships and identifying new opportunities in the communication the client is having with other individuals,” Sussin says.
One way enterprises could embed social into individual business applications might be to create a social prospecting application, running within a traditional CRM application, that serves up social profile information about a prospect along with any conversation history on social media between the company and that prospect. "This could be used in maintaining client relationships and identifying new opportunities in the communication the client is having with other individuals." she says.
"It's something we’ve seen a few people do… not on a massive scale though. It’s usually something they’re trying out."
Eventually, social will simply become a component, a feature set included in existing enterprise applications that serve many different areas of the business. "Some Gartner clients have recognized this and are actively working to align their multiple customer records and methods for touch points, and focusing on traditional discipline key performance indicators, versus trying to create something unique to social," she says.
But those customers are few and far between. The reason? "It’s a combination of the world not being ideal and the technology not actually being there yet," she says.