While a lot of my research agenda and client interactions focused on collaboration and Enterprise 2.0 / social software during 2009, the most sizeable amount of time and energy for me this year was spent on social media, social networking, and social analytics (externally as well as internally).
Earlier this year, there was a noticeable spike in my inquiry load concerning social media. What I found interesting was that the nature of the calls were not driven by a marketing context but by concerns regarding risks (e.g., identity, security, compliance, reputation) and technology-related concerns regarding integration points between consumer sites and the enterprise (e.g., Facebook Connect). The trend of social media as a "hot topic" continued throughout 2009 resulting in several speaking engagements (often with Alice Wang, a co-worker of mine in our consulting organization who focuses on identity, risk, and security topics):
- Concordia Workshop: Use Cases Driving Identity in Enterprise 2.0: The Consumerization of IT (Slide Deck And Background Information Here)
- OASIS: Identity Management 2009 Transparent Government: Risks, Rewards and Repercussions (Session Description Here)
- Burton Group Telebriefing: Leveraging Relationships and Managing Identity – Two Sides of the Social Networking Coin (clients only)
- Enterprise 2.0 conference San Francisco: Social Networking and Identity - A Cautionary Tale
There is a lot of coverage out there on social media - but surprisingly, not so much that drills down from the softer brand/marketing/customer relationship management strategies into the underlying enabling technology. As social media becomes more complex, with a lot more issues related to interoperability, integration, platforms, standards (formal or vendor-specific), etc., IT organizations are slowly becoming more involved with social media strategies as business strategists begin to see social media as being co-owned across multiple business units. As organizations think more broadly about how enterprise systems work in conjunction with consumer services, those issues began to come into my inquiry load.
I expect this trend to continue and trend upwards in 2010. The business implications are becoming more strategic as organizations such as the FINRA, FDA, etc. establish guidelines for how organizations treat social media from a regulatory perspective. For instance, I just finished reading the FINRA report on "communications with the public" that came out in September 2009 (proposed new rules). More will come in 2010 (FINRA - Compliance Considerations for Social Networking Sites, FDA-Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools).
The issues raised from regulatory activities really does take social media beyond the marketing-centric focus popular in the media and by various pundits. Although social media is one of those meme that has become over-hyped to some extent, it still represents a credible term. That said, I did try to pull some thoughts together to clarify my own thinking on social computing and social media, including a visual taxonomy of sorts for social computing and a working definition (somewhat verbose) for social media.
And the framework defined back in 2008 when I started to look at social media for formally is still holding up:
- "ACES" Framework For Social Media (from 2008)
Social networking was overall, my hottest topic in 2009. The field research project I undertook in late 2008 resulted in a series of reports published throughout 2009 on the findings. A summary of the project is available for free here (registration required I believe) Field Research Study: Social Networking Within the Enterprise. One of the most interesting trends in this space I believe is the intersect between social networking, identity, and analytics covered in these posts:
- Relationships and Identity: Two Sides of the Social Networking Coin
- Part 2 - Relationships and Identity: Two Sides of the Social Networking Coin
The more I study identity (in-and-of-itself, not so much "identity management"), it leads me back to social sciences and how social structures form, how relations are shaped, structural holes in networks, etc. Research available from people like White, Kollock, Granovetter, Wellman, boyd, Smith, Cross, and a few others took up most of my spare reading time. Identity & Control, How Social Formations Emerge (White) was my favorite book for 2009. I also thought very highly of the work done by Henry Jenkins on media literacies and participatory culture.
While social networking has a lot of positive aspects when it comes to community-building, expertise location, and so on, it remains poorly understood. I find people jumping to tools too quickly and become overly enamored with terms like "broker", "connector", "maven", etc. Also, it seems that there is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to strong ties / weak / latent ties. Still, there was a lot of client interactions on topics related to profiles, social graphs, activity streams, and social networking in general. For some, social networking trends are providing a spark to re-ignite KM efforts. I don't disagree - I've always felt that KM efforts were also too focused on tools and too focused on "capture" versus relationships and interactions. Expertise location remains a loaded term - often it's more about finding someone who has experience (not necessarily *the* expert) or someone with shared activities (past/current) so that a conversation can ensue. That can be tremendously important - but the capability can sometimes be oversold. However, there is a dark side. Social media and social networking intersect with risk management topics in many instances. Those combined risks (summarized briefly below) represented the hottest topic the second half of the year.
- Assuring profiles (identities) – internal and external
- Populating profiles with trusted enterprise data
- Assessing social identity attribute claims
- Making sure that controls exist to satisfy privacy mandates
- Applying policy-based management (including enforcement)
- Inclusion of monitoring, discovery, and audit mechanisms
- Validating "fine-grained” access controls and role modeling capabilities
- Satisfying compliance, discovery and related data-retention controls
- Ensuring data loss protection
Profiles And Profiling
- Credibility of profile and social claims
- Possible bias against employees by co-workers based on race, diversity, affiliation information made open and transparent via social media tools
- Intellectual property, compliance, e-Discovery, monitoring…
- Aggregation / correlation capabilities
- Data management and data integration (profiles, roles, etc)
- Adherence to regulatory statutes, level of relationship controls, possible stalking situations (hostile workplace)
Social Network Analysis
- Makes relationships visible that perhaps should not (“connecting the dots”)
- May lead to “befriend / defraud” situations, social engineering
From a technology perspective, this post summarized my thoughts on the shift in focus from destination sites to a more distributed/federated model: Social Networking Platform Evolution: From Destination Site To Networked Services.
Social analytics (including social network analysis, SNA) remained an emerging topic based on my client interactions. Social analytics encompasses a wide variety of methods (e.g., sentiment analysis, SNA, reputation analysis, etc). Some tools/vendors focus on analyzing communication patterns (e.g., e-mail), while others correlate patterns across communication and information sources. The ability to aggregate and correlate social data is becoming a highly prized competency - not just from an external social media perspective but increasingly, from an internal viewpoint as well. The posts below summarize some of my thinking during 2009 on the topic:
- Community Equity, SunSpace, FOAF+SSL, & KiWi
- Social Analytics: Another Front For Business Intelligence
- Community Equity Project
There are a lot of players in this space - although the domain is pretty fragmented. Xobni and Gist focus on e-mail. SAP Business Objects Social Network Analyzer is leveraged by Jive. At its heart is a "relationship analysis server". People within Sun are working on Community Equity (an open source project). You can follow Community Equity here on Twitter. Vendors like Catelas, Trampoline Systems, Value Networks, Contact Networks, and eTelemetry have all made efforts to deliver social networking analysis tools (with different approaches and areas of emphasis). SAS is in the space focused on fraud detection. Telligent has also included an analytics capability within its platform. Marc Smith, formerly Microsoft Research and Telligent, now on his own (you can follow him on Twitter) has an interesting tool called NodelXL based on Excel. IBM has an application (Atlas) that provides SNA capabilities for Lotus Connections (it also has consulting services in this area as well). So perhaps 2009 is the year that social analytics took cohesive shape as a defined "space" but the exact market boundaries are yet to be determined given the amount of fragmentation right now. However, I expect social analytics to become much more prominent of a topic during 2010 as organizations seek ROI from social media and social networking / Enterprise 2.0 initiatives and also look to better understand some of the relationship patterns within social networks.