This year will be the year that the enterprise really gets wise to the value of social media, which means deals among companies in the collaboration space should speed up according to a report issued on Monday by investment bank Stifel Nicolaus. The authors of “#Winning!// A White Paper on the Rise of Social Media Software,” perhaps the first report to use a Charlie Sheen meme in its title, argue that social media has become so ubiquitous in consumer culture that it will finally make its way into corporate IT departments.
In the words of one industry executive interviewed in the report, “2011 is expected to be the year that the C-level executive embraces the real importance of social integration within the enterprise.” New tools meld traditional modes of collaborative — such as instant messaging, videoconferencing, document management/collaboration and co-browsing — with more modern social principles, such as user threads, profiles, wall posts, and roles to create a visual, group-centric layout for classic collaboration.
One of the most heavily marketed new entrants into this arena has been Salesforce.com’s private social networking service, Chatter. Launched in mid-2010, the service was being used by 80,000 of the company’s 92,000 paying customers by the end of that year. With its recent acquisition of Dimdim, Salesforce plans to add real-time communication, indicating that it plans to follow “the proven Facebook model of combining collaboration and communication into an integrated service” with Chatter.
The report said that as businesses seek ways to shape, control and capitalize on the endless streams of online chatter by customers and employees, they are also trying to amass and analyze every possible bit of useful information. Jive Software, which builds social-business tools, recently acquired data-mining software company Proximal Labs, showing how important the data analysis component is to this space. Increasingly, executives want to see data about employee behavior and engagement added to their management dashboard so they can spot top performing individuals and teams, increase productivity and gain insight into customer relationships.
Looking forward, the Stifel team predicts the best areas of opportunity will be for companies like Jive and Salesforce, which incorporates both internal collaboration platforms and external feedback systems. As larger software companies try to straddle both sides of this line, they’ll look to acquire smaller companies that can help round out their features, making startups who can do a few things really well highly desirable targets.