Event notes: Future of the Social Web Roundtable

Future of the Social Web Roundtable
Last Tuesday, for the first time, I hosted a no-cost private roundtable of the leaders from brands and vendors in the social space to discuss the future of the social web for my upcoming research on the topic. This wasn’t a conference, everyone worked and everyone shared, as a result, everyone got something out of it. The following is just the high level event premise and findings.

Attendees
I invited many brands which included companies that have been implementing social media have teams, and budgets in the area that included SAP, EMC, Cisco, Webex, Intel, Wells Fargo, O’Reilly, Nokia, Juniper Networks, Cadence, Oracle

I also invited vendors that have products and services for the market, and they include, Biz 360, Web Trends, IBM, SAP (CRM), Oracle (CRM), SocialText, Gigya, Widgetbox, Newsgator, Google, Six Apart, OpenID, LinkedIn, Documentum EMC, Pluck, Acquia, Jive, Awareness, Lithium, Kickapps, Leverage Software, Telligent, Mzinga, LiveWorld. Many of these vendors sent product managers and a few of the smaller vednors sent their CEOs and founders. A few flew in from NYC

There were a few companies that I invited that did not show or were too busy to attend, if you weren’t invited, I may do this event next year, perhaps with different companies.


There were three major objectives:

  • Generate four predictions, challenges, and solutions.
  • Develop relationships ecosystem for partners, vendors, and clients.
  • Continue to fuel Forrester’s leadership as a research firm focused on social computing.

  • Four Predictions, Challenges and Solutions
    At a high level the following four predictions were generated from the crowd

    Group Prediction 1: Community will participate in all aspects of marketing/strategy, product development, and support.
    Challenge: Yet brands will have difficulty managing the culture shift.
    Solution: Develop a business program to create incremental benefits.

    My Observations: : What’s interesting is that the solution fix here had nothing to do with technology –it was about corporate change processes. The group that presented the solutions (mainly brands) developed a plan that wasn’t unique to social media, but to any change management process within the enterprise. This is clearly about people –not tools.

    Group Prediction 2: Brands present and participate where organic communities exist –not just corporate created communities
    Challenge: Reorientating the organization to deliver value to the community first.
    Solution: Brands require monitoring tools, internal training and processes, in order to deliver value to communities where they exist.

    My Observations: : Again, this was less about technology (except for the ability to monitor communities where they exist) but more of a need to understand how to join communities where they are, and how to deliver value without splatting your brand on the community. This is more about marketing strategy, listening to customers, and conversational marketing than technology.

    Group Prediction 3: Work style evolves as employees collaborate beyond colleagues to get work done
    Challenge: Yet rules within corporate culture prevent adoption
    Solution: Develop strategy for internal process change

    My Observations: : Much like the other two, managing the potential roadblocks internally were the key here. HR, potentially legal, and IT could be in the way of employees working collectively in the open with others, this really wasn’t a technology issue, in fact, many of the tools needed are available today.

    Group Prediction 4: One identity with controllable multiple facets empowers users to control their web experience.
    Challenge: Industry does not agree what should be portable, and how it should be, resulting in no trust
    Solution: Despite this being a prediction, market demand doesn’t yet exist to spur adoption and innovation

    My Observations: While this frequently came up as a prediction and a need, the market clearly wasn’t ready for this. The unconference station was unattended, and when we talked about it at the group think, I asked if any brands were ready to fund this development –in most cases, just getting SSO is still a priority, let alone a common social ID. It’s too early for this technology, and I’m sure, just like how we developed a handful of IM logins and handles they weren’t integrated for nearly a decade.


    Summary Observations
    Vendors were cautious what to say around competitors, in some cases, we had ‘mortal’ enemies in the room, yet they realize in order to be successful, their systems at some point will need to share data, develop standards, or serve the same customer. I often started with the demand side (brands) as they will lead with what’s important to them (aka what they’ll pay for). The social web industry was able to collaborate towards a single goal.

    In general, the predictions weren’t anything more than I discuss already on this blog, we were only able to see about 5 years out, certainly not 10, in some ways this was a little disappointing, but the upside is that it’s confirmation from a pan-industry perspective we are all seeing the same direction –that it worth it’s weight in gold.

    Outside of the four predictions there was another discussion around industry standard measurement, while it was discussed, I didn’t see a group that was willing to commit to what this was going to look like.

    It’s interesting how the common predictions all revolved around process and change management –not so much a technology issue. This means more education, more strategy discussions, more case studies, and more proof of ROI will be needed for the next few years.

    Overall, most were glad to have attended, this meeting of the minds was the first time this have ever happened, and I connected everyone via email, and they were able to find each other on Twitter.

    While group based research isn’t anything new, applying it as one additional stream of inputs to everything I do has proven helpful and a valuable resource. To be clear, this is just one of the many streams of incoming I receive to watch this industry. It’s likely my final report will think beyond these four predictions.

    Thanks to SAP for hosting this event, and Kenny from GPJ and the event team for helping support the event.

    Voice from the community
    It’s one thing to hear from me, but do listen to what others said

  • I was really impressed by the leadership that Joshua-Michéle Ross (not Justin) of O’Reilly brought to the event, he writes about Pirates and Poohbahs Unite!
  • Jeff Nolan was live chatting about the event with others, read the good –and bad– of the event.
  • Len from EMC attended, and is leading his own events.
  • Does the Social Web Have a Future? writes Justin Kestelyn from Oracle’s community group.
  • If you attended and blogged it, leave a comment and I’ll add it to this list.
  • If you attended, I hope to hear your observations (good and bad) and if you didn’t attend and have questions, leave a comment, I’ll to my best to respond.

    Select photos tagged futuresocial08


    The Roundtable (sans a table)Group Shot: The future of the social web roundtablePicture 164Picture 154Picture 151Picture 141Picture 144Picture 123Picture 114Picture 101Picture 103Picture 126

    I’ll be adding additional photos later.

    • Vuk

      Amazing of course.
      And here’s two cents from Slovenia where crisis still didn’t hit: in our times of erosion of trust it is imaginable to me that exactly Social Media would play a key role in establishing two-way confidence.
      The logics is this: every protagonist in the market and society will have to carefully re-evaluate their position and relations with others. Social Media is the only place where we really meet.
      Bad news is that infrastructures are expensive and I hope nobody starts extinguishing ISPs.
      Gloomy perhaps, pray to god it is only mental exercise.

    • Sounds like a great session. Thanks for the distillation of the discussion.

      Clear indication that this field has lots more growing up to do and hence enormous opportunities.

      How would you turn these into some possible Blue Ocean strategies you suggested to social tool vendors on your Twitter post?

      C.H. Low, CEO, Orbius

    • No surprise that culture and change management emerged as the more central issue. I would venture to say those of us who have been advising larger enterprises on social media strategies for a while run into this more than any other issue surrounding social media. Change management rears its head immediately – even as the social media sales process begins. No company (or consultant, for that matter) can institute it without addressing the change inside the organization – even slight shifts into social media often requires more than slight internal shifts.

      Thanks for highlighting the need for more education, case studies, and more ROI. The absolutely #1 question I get is “how to convince the bosses.” Those three things are essential to answering the question. But, I believe bosses don’t need to be as convinced as we might think – they can see the shift to social business is occurring; they need to be convinced of the business value for that specific enterprise. Anyone hoping to bring social media into the organization needs to be equipped to address the cultural changes needed – and that needs to be part of the ROI equation as well!

      Thanks for making your session “available” to the rest of us by summarizing it here. Great reality check!

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    • CH, in this case, some of the blue oceans may be more cooperative than bypassing competition all together.

      Linda, thanks for the reinforcement–we’re hearing this from multiple sources, it’s change management issue.

    • Jeremiah,

      Regarding point 4, the social media space is evolving so fast, it’s impossible to predict where the next big app will take hold. But as Charlene Li pointed out, and as I have blogged on this space is aching for consolidation.

      You mention that the market isn’t ready and the technology isn’t there. But the pressure is so great that the tipping point will arrive very quickly once the right forces intersect.

      Some technologies are already offering aggregation, such as ping.fm which will post updates to a variety of apps. And it’s very popular. Witness the outcry when it went down yesterday!

      Likewise, a number of vendors are developing apps that provide one-stop shopping for integrated social experiences, but these generally want to remain closed since their business models rely on the propietary technology (such as zLoops).

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