Last year I finally dipped a toe into the the Social Media ocean and got pulled in very quickly and deeply. And I am not alone, more and more people I know are finally overcoming their resistance and are establishing a rudimentary presence on twitter & facebook and are even beginning to blog.
I believe we are seeing the end of the "early adopter" phase of Social Media, and are now ready to enter the "bowling alley". (Forgive me for applying the Geoffrey Moore "crossing the chasm" methodology to this area.)
Seeing that more than 30,000 people were watching the SAP Business Suite 7 Launch on Twitter, makes me think the Marketing and Public Relations Industry might be one of the bowling pin segments for turning the corner from the experimental stage of Social Media to the more commercial phase. In addition, the cost cutting and travel restrictions of the current economic lull might lead to enough "pain" and therefore critical mass to herald the dawn of what I would dub "social software".
I would define social software as a mashup between the social media tools that are emerging by the truckload every day (just think of the tool-cloud around twitter as an example) and the "established applications" that still dominate the work place.
The worlds of collaboration and process management are begging to be brought together. Most people I know are still bogged down with fighting the email hydra one mail at a time, realizing that, the more they deal with their mail box, the more they are getting overwhelmed by it. Communication and collaboration does not happen one mail at a time. Also, most fellow occupants of dilbert-space I know are still working in a very "waterfall" oriented process, taking weeks or months to crank out a deliverable, only to find out it has become obsolete during the production process, because they did not engage early enough with the target community to get feedback.
Granted. The tools are there. The Instant messengers. The Twitters. The Facebooks. The Nings. But there is still a great divide between the "professional" software world, and what you do in your "private" software environment. And until there is a robust offering that brings both worlds together, corporate IT will still watch this space with a great deal of resistance.
Social Software could fix that. Social Software would mash up your "personal network applications" with your office applications. With the right context, persistence and security, and great integration with relevant back office processes and applications like your customer relationship software.
Today, the gap between office software and community software is still miles wide. Social software would be very welcome by many, especially the early adopters, but I have yet to see someone emerge with a clear vision on how to bring these two worlds together. Maybe SAP with its Duet and Alloy products, mashing up the worlds of MS-Office or Lotus Notes with end to end business processes is an important first step.
Maybe the next step would be for facebook and SAP to collaborate to create "bizbook?", and take the social media revolution to the next level?