Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Enterprise Social Media Adoption – Fear Factor or Cool Tools?

I admit I haven’t had the chance to read Groundswell - Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, written by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li of Forrester Research, but it is on my list. I have, however, attended a few of Forrester’s social networking webinars, spent some time on the Groundswell website and read with interest an article in this past Sunday’s Boston Globe titled "Broadsided" that discusses the book.

From what I’ve read, the book details the rapid adoption of blogs, wikis, podcasts, and online video and how these web-based tools have changed the way that companies and their customers interact. The change is so dramatic according to Bernoff, a vice president and principal analyst for Forrester, that "this is the largest thing to happen to American business since the Internet came in." Wow – that’s BIG! Bigger than e-commerce? Bigger than data, voice and video services over IP?

I’m not sure if Bernoff’s statement is based on current market sizing statistics or if it is a prediction of the larger business opportunity, but it is a very intriguing point of view for those of us who follow the social media market. So what’s fueling this market opportunity?

According to Bouzha Cookman, partner at Catlin & Cookman Group, a Concord, MA consulting firm, "[social networking technology] is playing out with companies that are fiercely protective of their brands" and not so much with their own cliental of smaller businesses with under $100 million in annual sales. Cookman also mentions that technology vendors developing solutions designed to help businesses promote their messages on blogs and social networks are capitalizing on “the anxiety they [blogs and social networks] cause in executive suites”.

Interesting take. Is the market really being driven by fear? Are vendors in the space capitalizing on it to drive adoption? I don’t know, but I’d prefer to think that the market is being driven by social media technology vendors who think their solutions are cool and really smart product marketing professionals looking for ways to leverage emerging technologies to promote their brands.

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