Businesses will increasingly turn to social networking tools in 2011, but there will be fewer social platforms for companies to choose from, according to predictions from IT research firm IDC.
If that's the case, social and collaboration platforms will gain significantly more momentum next year.
Business-focused platforms won't be the only ones seeing a spike in business. IDC noted that many small and medium-sized businesses will turn to social networks such as Facebook to "establish a free online presence that improves their ability to acquire, engage, and retain customers without the hassle and cost of setting up a traditional Web site."
These expectations for 2011 come from IDC's "Top 10 Predictions 2011" report, which was released late last week.
Frank Gens, chief analyst with IDC, said in the report that social networking is one of the technologies that will move beyond early adopter status and will mature into a mainstream platform in the coming year.
Among Gens' predictions is that Jive Software Inc. , will have an IPO in the coming year. Jive is an enterprise 2.0 service that uses Facebook-like social networking tools, such as updates, people search and communication channels, and applies them to the corporate world.
Gens also predicts that major vendors such as Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Cisco Systems and IBM will be looking to buy up socially focused businesses to either jump into the social/collaboration space or to beef up their current offerings.
Gens went to so far as to predict that 30% of the players in the social software market will be swallowed up by other companies in 2011.
Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, also said there will be a lot of acquisitions of social networking companies this year. But he added that the market will shrink partly because companies that have been testing the social waters will fail and fall away.
"It won't be a huge year for social networking but a bigger year than 2010," Olds said. "The economy, as a whole, will definitely be a factor, holding the market back a bit. If the economy recovers, then, yeah, it might be a huge year."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.