The good folks at Lithium asked me to weigh in on the future of Social CRM, Social Strategies, Government 2.0, throughout 2010. I tried to avoid the hype cycle with my predictions and wanted to share them with you. I guest posted on their blog but also wanted to share my thinking directly with you here, let me know what you think.
2010, and probably the first half of 2011, will see rapid growth internal to the industry, the analyst that follow, the experts and their opinions, and the major companies/vendors involved. During this same period of time, however, the average consumer/citizen will go on without seeing much that impacts their daily lives. In large part this is due to the fact that companies are still working to understand how to strategically leverage social strategies and the associated tactics and tools. More importantly, many companies are trying to determine how to even begin listening to the conversations taking place. We are early in a process that will, over the course of the next few years, dramatically change how business and government is done.
While there has been much in the way of hype around terms like Social Business Design and Social CRM, I expect we will see the industry pay less attention to these terms, these frameworks, and focus more deeply on how social tactics and tools play into their general business strategies. Social strategies will surely be used, but expect them to remain targeted to certain functional areas (e.g. marketing, customer service). Even though this is the case, companies will prefer to buy from all-in-one social solution providers as it will make it much easier to scale their use of social tactics across the business over the course of the next 2 - 3 years.
So, who are those leaders in terms of providing a suite of solutions? Jive Software, INgage Networks, and Lithium Technologies are the leaders to watch and, for those companies, and government agencies, looking to build out a complete solution, companies you must speak with. This is not to say that there will not be hundreds of niche players, thriving in many cases, offering very specific solutions that are often better than what you will get from these three.
2010 is also going to be a year of consolidation. There are simply too many companies, some running with too much debt, some with too few customers, which are reaching the end of their lifetime. I would expect to see at least a half dozen Social Media Monitoring and Social CRM companies disappear in 2010. There are already a small number that are in trouble, or nearing trouble, and others will have challenges as they seek to differentiate themselves from the competition. The news, however, is not all bad. We are also entering an era where you will see many partnerships and acquisitions taking place. Jive Software made a good move when they bought Filtrbox, adding Social Monitoring/Listening capabilities, the other major players will need to do something as well.
Companies like HP and McDonalds, who are great examples of companies using social strategies effectively, will be creating real world examples of ROI, helping the rest of the industry by providing models to follow. ROI (return on investment) and CONI (cost of not investing) will not have agreed upon formulas but executives will be looking for numbers, even if they are simply ballpark numbers, to justify the investment in these strategies. As a CTO I dislike spending any money without understanding the payback, my CFO friends are going to be asking as well, answers had better be ready.
As I look at the public sector and the open government movement, expect to see continued growth. Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US will continue to lead the charge but countries like Brazil, Germany, and Japan will become larger players as well. In large part the focus will remain on providing open data sources at Federal and local levels. However, while politicians will mostly provide lip service, agencies like the GSA will deliver value through key projects like the Better Buy Project, providing rallying points from which other agencies can move forward.
Will we see flying cars, businesses that engage for reasons other than bottom line profit, and politicians that really want more than your vote? No, not as the norm. However, we are continuing down the path to a better way of doing business, of running government, and for that we should all be very excited.