Social business software – such as marketing automation tools, social media management tools, and business collaboration tools – will explode in the next few years.
According to a forecast by 451 Research, revenue will increase by $24 billion over the next 5 years and reach $37 billion by 2019. The study covered the following segments: Marketing Automation, Social Media Monitoring & Management, Enterprise Collaboration/Social and Web Experience Management.
According to the company’s research director, they expect to see substantial investment and growth in 2015. He stated that these applications are “being built to meet the needs of increasingly dispersed workforces.”
Over the next several years, 451 Research expects a 22% compound annual growth rate.
Social Business Software: A Growing Marketplace
The various segments of social business software are growing rapidly. But, according to some, this growth is still fragmented and still has a long way to go.
According to industry expert David Raab, for instance, almost 70% of marketers are unhappy or marginally happy with their marketing automation software. And according to a study by Bluewolf, only 7% of marketers are seeing good, measurable results from their software.
While business collaboration tools are growing in number, they too suffer from growth pains. Jason Green, founder and partner at Emergence Capital Partners, claimed that these collaboration tools are increasing efficiency and reducing friction between employees. However, these tools still have a ways to go in order to reduce information overload or “noise.”
The same problem that Twitter faces – too much happening at once – seems to be affecting business collaboration tools: too many conversations happening simultaneously over too many communication channels.
It’s safe to say that these challenges will be overcome, however. We are seeing the development of new social business software across the board.
For instance, mobile-first collaboration tools are on the rise, meeting the demands of on-the-go workers and distributed workforces.
Even Facebook, the world’s most popular social network, leaped into the social business arena with Facebook at Work, a platform designed to allow coworkers to communicate and collaborate on the job.
Currently, Facebook at Work is in closed beta, and only allows co-workers to communicate. But if Facebook chose to expand the platform and create a professional network like LinkedIn, it could become a serious competitor in the social business arena.
Though it’s difficult to gauge how popular or effective Facebook at Work will be, there is a clear demand for these types of software and platforms.
The explosive popularity of Slack, for instance, demonstrates a clear demand for collaborative business tools. In just over a year, this corporate chat and messaging service went from 0 users to over 280,000.
Do Social Business Tools Signal the Death of Email?
Some think so.
The New York Times boldly claimed that this app may be the one to sink email for good. Though this claim seems rather audacious given the ubiquity of email, there are a few trends that suggest “social” may supplant this form of communication.
What leads the New York Times to make this extraordinary claim is the fact that several companies actually use Slack as their primary form of communication, not email. The New York Times, Walmart, Comcast, Blue Bottle Coffee, and a large number of startups are all using Slack as their go-to communication tool.
While it seems unlikely that Slack itself will entirely replace email, Slack’s growth spike offers clear evidence in favor of 451 Research’s forecast for social business growth.
Facebook at Work has been quiet since its beta launch in January. But given the social network’s track record, its existing platform, and its foothold in the social networking world, it’s certainly conceivable that Facebook at Work could become a giant in the social business space.
Key Success Factors for Social Business Software
In the coming years, some tools, such as Slack, will see massive success. Others, however, will fade into the background.
So what is it that makes tools like Slack a success while its competitors stagnate?
In general, social business software is designed to automate and streamline communications, whether that communication involves business collaboration, social media management, or marketing automation.
Simplicity will be a major key to success for many of these social business tools.
As Vik Singh pointed out on Tech Crunch, many marketing automation tools aren’t simple at all. He said that he encountered one marketing automation system that took over 8 hours to process all its workflows before the sales rep was allowed to touch the lead.
Singh said, “Where’s the speed, simplification and automation that marketing automation promised us?”
On the other hand, Slack succeeded so dramatically precisely because it is simple to use. Quartz pointed out that it is easy for users to jump right in: teams can sign up and start communicating immediately.
Although marketing automation, social media management, and business collaboration tools have saturated the market, they still have some evolving to do. Many businesses and corporations cling to inefficient communication and collaboration tools, such as email or Microsoft Office. Even the automation and collaboration tools that seek to replace them, though, have a long ways to go.
These inefficiencies represent a huge opportunity for social business software companies. Slack, Facebook at Work, or other similar, simple tools may become dominant standards in the next few years.