Jive: Social business must capitalise on the enterprise social graph

10th Jun 2011

Jive Software's Lynda Smith explains how social business can unlock the value of the enterprise social graph - and what role Jive has to play in this vision.

When Jive Software recently announced the results of the largest customer survey ever conducted on the impact of social business adoption it delivered, as you would expect, a glowing report on its value. What it also emphasised, however, was the growing penetration levels of social technology - of the 300 companies that were represented in the study (of which many had 10,000+ employees) the vast majority were reported to be implementing enterprise-side social business initiatives. And the research concluded that while 2010 had seen a major push, 2011 would be the year of accelerated enterprise-wide adoption across most industries.
For Lynda Smith, SVP of marketing at Jive, the largest and fastest growing independent social business software company in the world, the research accurately reflected the social software vendor’s own experiences out in the field, as the market has begun to mature.
"The most common ways today that people are leveraging social business is from an internal perspective – it is about social collaboration, corporate communications, sales and marketing enablement – and that is where we see the investments happening the most," she explains. "On the external side it really comes down to customer communities that are either used for marketing purposes or customer support, or are used with partner communities for channel enablement."
She continues: "If you think about the market in terms of the technology adoption lifecycle by Geoffrey Moore, last year we were still in the ‘early adopter’ stage. What we realised as we came out of last year was that we are now in a new part of the market, we are moving into what Moore would call the ‘early adopter’ phase, which means now it’s coming into the mainstream."
By the end of last year, Jive had carved out a significant reputation for itself within the burgeoning social software space, named as one of only two ‘leaders’ in Gartner’s inaugural Magic Quadrant for Social CRM, and with a social business suite that appealed to the visionary early adopter crowd with a roadmap for social development already in mind.
"A lot of our customers will start at one point and then build out – so they may start [their social business initiative] internal and build external or vice versa," says Smith. "Part of the benefit of our customers being visionaries is that this one suite approach is going to be to their benefit."
Switching messaging
But with social business "coming into the mainstream", Jive has found itself also needing to strike a chord with an entirely different kind of customer. "The customers you interact with in the mainstream tend to be more pragmatic," continues Smith. "They aren’t the ones who want to take a lot of technological risks. The customers that we see now realise that they have to go and do this – but it is not second nature to them to jump into it.
"We have switched our messaging and story a bit more to what the specific needs are to the customer because it is the right time in the market to do that. This phase of the market really is about education and about helping customers understand not only how they can leverage what we do for their needs today, but how it is all going to work out for them in the future."
This educational role that Jive is keen to play reflects its enthusiasm to communicate the "broader opportunity" of social business. From the aforementioned research, it would appear that the majority of enterprises are now seriously looking at Enterprise 2.0 and collaboration tools. And with the enormous hype surrounding the use of Web 2.0 to engage with the social customer, businesses are increasingly dipping their toe into what social business can offer on the external side – even if it’s something merely exploratory, such as setting up a Twitter handle or Facebook page.
Some businesses, meanwhile, may well have both internal and external projects underway - those these are likely to operate in siloes. But Smith sees Jive as playing an important role in enlightening firms about the bigger picture – of bringing the external and internal worlds together.
"There is a big benefit of this that is very visionary, so it’s not something you find customers today talking about or buying for that purpose, and it ties into our acquisition of Proximal Labs," explains Smith. "You may have heard about the concept of the social graph relative to Facebook – the understanding of all the interconnections that people have within their community, within the web, all the people that they interact with. But businesses have these also – the enterprise social graph.
"If you can imagine being a company that is using this for your own capabilities, you are using it to communicate with partners, to interact and engage with customers, to tap into what is going on in the greater social web... and if you can really start leveraging that enterprise social graph imagine the intelligence that you could have to run your business.
"You may have 100 distribution partners that you are working with and what you find is that the engagement level with some of them is massively larger than others, and you see that your revenues are higher with those partners. You have all this new level of information about how they are engaging, who they are engaging with in the company, what customers they are engaging with, and you can start to understand why they are the ones driving the majority of your revenues. So the visionary side of this is that if you are using it internally and externally you are able to take advantage of the enterprise social graph."
Smith adds that even if customers approach Jive about a very specific social project, this means it is incumbent on Jive to explain how it forms just one part of the "bigger story of social business" and what the value then is if they look at social business with "a much broader lens".
Roadmap for growth
But with social tools and platforms still fairly immature, and social business strategies still evolving, there are huge disparities in the levels of understanding and awareness. Smith talks of Jive encountering two types of customers, the "initiated" and the "uninitiated", which require very different handling. She suggests that there are also different levels of maturity according to region, with social business being an especially new topic to Europe, where the "whole concept is still coming around."
Even analysts are not necessarily as developed in their thinking – Smith points to Gartner’s Social CRM Magic Quadrant and Social Software in the Workplace Magic Quadrant and highlights that even Gartner has yet to unify them.
This status in the market isn’t necessarily all good news. While Smith says that Jive hears from analysts "quite commonly" that the company is "probably two years ahead of the market in terms of innovation and how we look at social business overall", this does present some marketing  and communication challenges. Jive does need to get its messaging correct to ensure that it isn’t exclusive – "we recognise the need to be careful not to get too far ahead of where customers’ heads are..." she acknowledges.
But with its "unique" position in the market, Smith believes that Jive has an important role to play in the development of the social business sector as it broadens its horizons.
"One of the challenges from a marketing and selling perspective is that because customers don’t have as broad a view to this as we do, or don’t have the vision that we do yet, they will be more comfortable to go with a best of breed. Someone who is focused specifically on a need that they have," says Smith. "But the thing we have working to our advantage on this is that enterprise software has been around long enough that everyone knows – and especially the IT department – that you have to be careful you don’t end up with a myriad of applications and solutions that don’t actually communicate with one another. And that is something that we can help with in the education process."
Smith concludes: "If you look at our competitors’ stories and look how they have architected their products, it is not necessarily in their plans to bridge this greater social business vision. What we tend to find is that the Magic Quadrant is a bit of a hoot to look at because you’ll see all of these tiny companies that have come out and chosen strategies that are very different – they have chosen not to be the broader social business, they have chosen to be the specialist in customer support of marketing or social media monitoring. And it is not on their roadmap to grow with the customer."

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