Enterprise Social Networking Finds Integration Is A Hoot
December 16, 2013 Dan Burger
IBM has a passion for social media. It’s social networking platform, Connections, is the nucleus of the social strategy that has lifted Big Blue to the leader in enterprise social software market share, as determined by IDC earlier this year. Enterprise social networking puts the emphasis on collaboration and, with a variety of social channels that enhance collaboration, the integration of those channels becomes part of the picture. Integration has arrived.
In order to tap into the full potential of enterprise social networking, the channels need to be a combination of internal and external avenues. Connections handles the internal collaborative efforts and popular social channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other networks and applications reach out beyond the enterprise to existing and potential customers and suppliers.
The integration cog in this machine is a company called HootSuite. Its product, also called HootSuite, is a dashboard with the capabilities to combine multiple social channels on a single screen. Without it, users are repeatedly screen hopping (similar to channel surfing, except there’s no intent to dodge commercials) from one social network to another. In shops where there is a social presence, Connections, with its enterprise collaboration features, becomes another channel and all the channels can be managed together using HootSuite.
“We have been listening to our customers’ needs for integration with social media. Over the past few months, HootSuite has developed an integration to start meeting those needs and enable our customers to leverage not only the social features of IBM’s Smarter Workforce but those of social media.” says Sandy Carter, IBM’s general manager of ecosystem development and a social business evangelist.
This is HootSuite’s first venture into the enterprise business arena. Its dashboard was originally built to integrate Facebook and Twitter with a multi-column view, which relieved the back and forth screen jumping for people who using both social channels. In August, HootSuite and IBM began discussing the potential for adding an enterprise collaboration tool–Connections–to the dashboard’s multi-column view.
“When HootSuite decided to come into the enterprise space, they decided to do it with IBM first,” noted Luis Benitez, a senior social software product manager for IBM. Benitez was impressed with how fast the HootSuite team was able to integrate Connections after getting access to the APIs. It was accomplished it in about a week, he said. “What they already had in place for integrating Facebook, Twitter, and others was probably reusable and just plugged into the Connections stream.”
The benefit comes with the capability to keep current with projects, topics, and teams by creating a single location where organizational information and subject matter experts can be contacted. Based on what he’s seen companies do with Connections, Benitez says it is most frequently used by departments such as human resources, marketing, and research and development.
“Connections would be used to collaborate inside the firewall,” he says. “Product development, for instance, is an internal process. But when the product is ready, it could be rolled out to the other outward facing social media and the management of this is controlled from a single station.”
A beta project involving Connections customers was launched less than two weeks ago. The general availability of the product is expected to coincide with the Connect 2014 conference, which is scheduled for the final week of January in Orlando, Florida. Connect is the conference formerly known as Lotusphere. A year ago, when IBM retired the Lotus brand, Notes, Domino and the rest of the Lotus products and services became branded as IBM.
Once HootSuite becomes generally available, it will be a free app for Connections and HootSuite customers. Both HootSuite and Connections licenses are sold on a per user basis. The advertised price for Connections licenses is $6 per user per month. HootSuite pricing was unavailable at the time this article was written.
“Some Connections customers may already be using HootSuite to manage their social media, but it is unlikely the app has been rolled it out to a large number of users,” Benitez said. “With this Connections integration, there is reason for enterprises to buy more HootSuite licenses and hopefully more Connections licenses as well.”
According to the IBM social business web page, which sites a number of sources, enterprise social networking is responsible for some terrific return on investment numbers. There’s an increase in company performance to the tune of 26 percent more revenue per employee, a 40 percent increase in new business, and new products are ready to go to market 66 percent quicker.
“Businesses today are operating in the social age where innovation, speed, and exceptional client experiences are critical.” says Alistair Rennie, general manager of social business at IBM in a statement that noted Big Blue’s market share leadership. “Our social business platform is accelerating that transformation and helping change the way leaders are working.”
Pairing social networking capabilities with analytics is a key ingredient in IBM’s vision for a smarter planet. Big Blue claims more than 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies have licensed its solutions for social business, including eight of the top 10 retailers and banks.