Social media platforms and community software give organizations a way for their users to interact and engage with one another internally in order to share information, make connections and more. We've put together this guide to help you learn more about what this software is and what benefits it can offer. Here's what we'll cover:
Sometimes called social enterprise applications or social business platforms, social community software describes a category of solution that provides internal networks for businesses or communities. Just like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+ allow the mass public to make friends, share news, engage in discussions and so on, a good social community platform will provide these same capabilities to a particular group of individuals, either within the same business or within a particular market niche.
At the heart of these systems are very robust database and network capabilities designed to handle the vast quantity of data and connectivity that come through these types of platforms.
There are two main types of applications for social media community software:
|Customer-facing community engagement||Often, companies use social networks as a value add to customers. For example, there might be a forum for customers to post and respond to each others’ technical questions, or a way to upload templates for other customers to use or a place to discuss innovative ways to use system capabilities. In this way, a company’s customers can interact with each other, forming their own community which improves customer satisfaction and retention.|
|Internal social business platforms||Many companies, particularly once they cross the “large business” threshold (or if they have employees in multiple locations), need an efficient way for their employees to collaborate. An internal platform provides that, allowing employees to expedite communication, network across departments and crowdsource ideas. Blogs, wikis, document sharing and instant messaging are other common ways that an internal platform might be used, often integrating with project management systems to facilitate task allocation and completion, scheduling, performance reviews and so on.|
Social community software will often include analytics to allow admins to monitor usage and improve performance, and it also sometimes offers ways to incentivize community engagement—for example, by offering “points” for certain activities. Many of them also have built-in mobile apps, which improves accessibility when employees are traveling or out in the field.
Sales and marketing focused buyer. These buyers are looking to leverage the value of socialized enterprise applications as it relates to the sales cycle. A system that meets this description will allow for plenty of internal communication, but it’s all geared toward collaborating to giving customers the information they need. Example vendors include Salesforce Chatter, Jive and Yammer.
Customer community developer. These are buyers looking to engage customers after the sale. They’ll prioritize customer-facing community engagement through forums, data sharing or online tech support, although it’s important to note that usually the intraweb is every bit as important as the parts that face the customer. Be sure to consider the program's ability to find and engage engineers, designers and other experts to help nurture the customer experience. Example vendors include Get Satisfaction and Social Cast.
Internal communicator. For a company looking to focus on internal communications, an internal platform will likely be the best way to go. You may or may not incorporate it with a project management, since that only builds on the effectiveness of a social business platform implementation, but it should definitely foster community engagement both within and across departments. Salesforce Rypple is a good solution for this type of buyer.
Social CRM buyer. Many companies looking for a social community platform actually need something much more comprehensive—they might need full CRM capabilities including contact management and help desk; or they might need to combine both customer-facing community engagement and internal communication into a single product. For these buyers a more complete social CRM product may be better. Take a look at products like Salesforce and Oracle.
Social community developer. This describes any number of organizations that wish to create a community. This could be a “social network for filmmakers,” a network for the graduates of a particular education program or a way for your customers to interact with each other. These buyers will focus on a good social community product that’s dedicated for this purpose. Yammer is an example of this type of product.
Rapid expansion and consolidation. Internal networks are one of the fastest growing trends in marketing and communications today. As they explode in popularity, CRM giants are busy building and acquiring tools to fill this niche, and newer companies are coming in with highly innovative solutions. A classic example of this type of market shakeup is Microsoft’s purchase of Yammer in June 2012. The acquisition garnered a lot of attention, due in no small part to the whopping $1.2 billion price tag, but few have said it was a bad move, considering Yammer generated five million users in four years.
Platform as a Service (PaaS). PaaS gives organizations the ability to develop apps in the cloud. As mobile app use continues to grow and companies look for new ways to leverage their communities, expect this kind of on-demand app-building to become more important to businesses and their customers alike.
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