It’s not a secret that The 451 Group isn’t the largest of analyst firms. We plain and simple don’t have as many analysts as the biggest firms — don’t get me wrong, we have about 35, we’re not exactly tiny. But still, we have bigger coverage areas (we have a bit of a different focus which makes this work). There are pros and cons to this but one of the biggest pros is being able to look across a larger area at what sometimes seem to be unrelated or parallel trends to see the intersection. This can be difficult when you’re really heads-down covering one fairly narrow sliver of IT (I speak from experience on that one).
I split my time pretty evenly between content management (in a broad sense) and what we used to call team collaboration but is really now enterprise social software. I’m not alone in these areas. There are several folks here that also work on social software in particular as social computing is starting to impact so many other sectors (search, CRM, app development, etc.). In particular I work with Vishy Venugopalan who covers mash-ups and other types of social application development and our new research associate Anne Nielsen who joined us just recently to specifically help out in the area of social software (yay, welcome Anne!).
But I digress. What I wanted to talk about was a particular intersection point between content management and social software. For internal deployments, this intersection is pretty obvious. As team collaboration gets more social, blogs, wikis, profiles, shared tags and so forth are natural extensions for internal collab tools. Even though the cultural changes can be difficult, from a pure technology perspective, it’s not a stretch to see that a content management tool like Microsoft SharePoint, that started out in content management, must quickly morph into social software.
But what about on the external side, where social software is deployed in customer-facing environments? (I really am getting to the title of this blog post…). Web content management, the traditional home of an organization’s customer-facing web presence, is more and more about online marketing, figuring out how best to test and target content to increase “success” (however that is defined on a particular site).
At the same time marketers are investing more to analyze the success of campaigns, test offers and automate content and product recommendations, they’re also delving into the world of customer communities and user-generated content. Social software is increasingly being used to solicit customers for feedback, enable customers or site visitors to socialize with each other, and use social tools to better support, retain and increase the value of customers.
Are online marketing (targeting, personalization, advertising) and customer communities different things? Of course not. Community contributions (votes, comments, blog posts) can make marketing more of a two-way dialogue, not to mention the fact that explicit contributions could be a goldmine user data on which to base offers and recommendations.
Are early efforts in online marketing and customer communities separate, siloed, manned with separate technologies? Mostly. Are customers looking to change this? Not yet. But they will once they’re more experienced and successful in both areas.
This will have an impact on how these markets (online marketing and social software) consolidate and grow. It’s still early days, but definitely something I’ll be looking at a lot as I cover (with help!) both areas.