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Alastair Mitchell

Standalone social software: Is the end in sight?

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Over the next twelve months, standalone social software is going to die

Every minute Twitter users average 100,000 tweets and Facebook users post 684,478 pieces of content. They have long been great tools for connecting with people in our social lives but the real value of standalone social tools within a business has yet to be proven. Despite seeing a huge rise in the number of social business applications in the last few years, it seems to be an unfortunate trend that after an initial peak of enthusiasm they are swiftly dropped.

But why does this initial excitement subside so rapidly when people are such prolific sharers in their personal lives? It’s simple: social tools need to help people get their jobs done rather than distract them. Without focusing on content, social tools are just providing fire hoses of information that overload workers. People don’t have time to filter through every conversation happening in their organisation.

But things are set to change in 2013, as we see the rise of a different kind of social software.  We’ll no longer see the standalone social service that has no real purpose but one that is baked into collaborative tools from the start. The phrase ‘content is king’ has never been more apt. Social functions need to go hand-in-hand with content, otherwise everyone is just talking about work rather than getting on with it.

After all, this is exactly what Facebook offers; a social collaboration tool centred around content, and it’s been hugely successful. In this case it’s photos and web links, but it offers a platform for users to both share content and start discussions around that content. The rise of Keek shows how important content (in this case video) is to social communication.

These are content collaboration tools in the true sense. What’s the business equivalent of the content shared on these personal platform? It’s documents and files. With a content collaboration platform based around the same principles, businesses can share important content and collaborate around it online, not just with people in their teams, but external organisations as well. 

It seems that a number of legacy enterprise software companies want to join the party. We are seeing an increasing number of companies adding social applications to their existing offerings. Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer, the launch of Oracle’s Social Relationship Management Platform and Salesforce’s Chatterbox are clear indicators of where the market is heading - socialising and collaborating around content rather than just socialising for the sake of it.    

This will mean a shift internally as employees get used to a different way of working. From a technical point of view, IT departments have to consolidate internal applications to support the change in the nature of work that social capabilities bring. And, whilst it’s important to make these tools as easy to use as possible, they will still require support form managers to get ball rolling. Some departments have got stuck in a rut with legacy services and great ideas have been trapped in silos; managers will need to encourage their teams to collaborate online more in order to get the most out of the tools. But we’ll say goodbye to old ways of working, where managers keen to make the most of new tools and investment in expensive services have misused standalone social services.

Over the next twelve months, standalone social software is going to die. With the sheer amount of information shared across an entire enterprise ecosystem, businesses can’t afford to waste time on ineffective tools. To have full visibility of every conversation would be information overload, but when conversations surround the appropriate content, people can simply work better together and get things done.

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