Last year witnessed some real progress being made in the social business sector and this year promises more of the same.

I have been part of the social business landscape -- more specifically, the social enterprise software market -- since 2004. As a pioneer in this space, I have witnessed massive changes. It's time to look back at some of the changes I predicted for 2012 and look forward to what's to come in 2013.

2012 Predictions

For 2012, I compiled a list of what I predicted would happen in social business for the next 12 months and there were a number of predictions that proved to be true. Here’s a quick recap:

Social is the new normal

At the beginning of last year I predicted that social would be the real driver behind how people go beyond just finding information. 2012 proved this to be true. Over the course of the last 12 months, we saw more aggressive combinations of enterprise search plus social, and sufficient validation that social has become the new normal for how we make day-to-day decisions in our personal lives and in business.

Welcoming the social platform (in the cloud)

In 2012, I forecasted that buyers would be looking for best-of-breed social platforms, not apps. Social platforms provide the open APIs and extensibility points to integrate with a company’s existing IT investments, rather than replace them. The beauty of this is that the social platform can be 100 percent delivered in an on-demand model/through the cloud -- this is something that I expect to continue to see an increase of in 2013.

It’s all about the (big) data and the consumerization of analytics

I predicted that as organizations began to deploy social applications, they would quickly find out that the real value isn't in the tools and technologies, but in the data. And in 2012, with more information available to us than ever before, businesses began to demand that a social platform act as the organization's data hub (and I believe that you will continue to see an increase in this demand in 2013, as highlighted below in my 2013 predictions).

What's to Come in 2013

Overall, I’m very pleased to look back over 2012 and see the progress that has been made in the market. So, with the new year beginning, here are the five major predictions that I see in store for social business in 2013.

The big shift: Businesses will continue to shift investments away from Facebook and back to on-domain communities

In 2013, businesses that had previously moved marketing funds away from their traditional dot-com "web presence" towards Facebook will reverse that trend. Research from Forrester Research and other leading analyst firms continues to validate the need for organizations to invest in their own websites and community experiences.

Why? Consumers have different expectations and behaviors in consumer social media and branded communities.

Of course businesses will continue to invest in Facebook and other consumer social media, but mainly for the purpose of maintaining a presence. While Facebook still has importance in the consumer "channel" most interactions with Facebook are on a personal level, and individuals are starting to clearly separate business/transaction-related activities and their personal activities.

Social will become more deeply embedded in how we work versus a destination that we visit

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This is becoming most apparent on the consumer side today, but businesses will also quickly follow suit internally.

I believe that social isn't a destination, but rather a set of experiences. Meaning, social experiences need to be present within existing work streams from traditional document management systems, such as SharePoint, to existing applications like email. Social is the glue that enables employees to collaborate through a variety of different technologies (email, web based forums, blogs, etc.).

For many of the large software vendors, this is the antithesis of what they want to see happen. I expect we’ll see additional acquisitions in the market, as traditional portal/collaboration businesses look to lock-in their customer base through a social offering.

A challenge for social vendors is that unlike traditional vertical software systems, such as CRM or CMS, social tends to layer itself horizontally, touching multiple systems. It will be interesting to watch over the coming year how social capabilities are going to continue to be made available.

Web Content Management (WCM) and Social will converge more quickly

"Big Data" comes from a number of sources; structured content systems and unstructured content systems are two of the most recognized types.

Enterprise 2.0 was all about wrapping unstructured activity (e.g. blogging, forum discussions) around structured content (e.g. files stored in document management systems). The same is going to take place with web content management platforms for public-facing Web properties (browser-based and mobile).

Social won't be a separate set of activities, but will instead be merged with structured content. As organizations seek to better understand consumer behavior through the use of Big Data analytics engines, the convergence of social and WCM will facilitate this. Ultimately, this insight will create the broader perspective that helps businesses better understand their customers.

I predict that organizations will continue to find social – specifically online customer communities – to be a significant traffic and awareness driver for their brands, products and services. Especially since B2Cs recognize that their traditional website models are being turned upside-down with consumers who are using search as their starting point and with the growing demand for mobile.

Data ownership will become a concern

For the past six or seven years, consumers have let information flow freely. Google, Twitter and Facebook have been three of the biggest beneficiaries of this consumer-driven content bonanza. Now, businesses are recognizing that the real value in social and Big Data is who owns the data.

The importance of data will become a central theme in 2013, as I anticipate we will see businesses take a more active role in controlling who owns the data created in their communities and in their social media channels. Businesses will seek to better understand behaviors, trends and recommendations that can be made available to their end consumers. As search continues to become smarter through the combination of social insights, less value will be placed on reporting. However, the consumerization of business intelligence will help quickly connect people to the information they need.

CIOs will regain influence

The importance of the role of the CIO has waned over the past several years; however, in 2013, I anticipate that the CIO’s influence in the organization will regain importance.

Trends related to data ownership, the convergence between public (customer-facing or external-facing) and private (employee-facing or internal-facing) communities, and bring your own device (BYOD) to work will force businesses to rethink critical security, content ownership and other aspects of their digital businesses.

Additionally, a somewhat obvious observation/trend surrounding the use of mobile will have a strong showing in 2013. Mobile first is going to be a common theme from a consumer experience perspective. That is, rather than designing for the web experience first, the mobile experience will be the priority and the web experience will follow the design patterns of mobile.

Today, there is a level of maturity in valuing social as a strategic capability that businesses offer to their customers, partners, and employees. I see 2013 as a significant year for the social industry. I’m certain that it will be as exciting as 2012.

Image courtesy of Peshkova (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Interested in reading more of Rob's thoughts on what makes a Social Business tick? Check out Social Business 101: Building the Foundation