If the enterprise social applications market was a music genre, it would be punk rock. Everything about it just seems faster and louder. As I look ahead to 2013, I expect a continuation of 2012. In other words, the enterprise application market will continue to mutate rapidly under the effects of social, mobile and cloud.

These are some of the trends and events I expect to see from the Social Enterprise in 2013. Given the dynamic nature of the software market, and Social Enterprise in particular, the byword is going to be “Change.”

The rise of the giants in the Social Enterprise

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Like Godzilla rising from the depths of the ocean to stomp hapless cities into dust, so come the largest software companies into the social collaboration and social media space. They are not new to this space, but now is when they will use their real leverage -- that they make most of the enterprise applications that so many corporations use -- to make the Social Enterprise a part of every mid-sized to large corporation.

This bodes well for the Social Enterprise as a whole but poorly for marginal ISVs.

Second tier social collaboration application vendors will strengthen, others fade away

There are too many social collaboration vendors. ESG tracks over 30 of them and we know we aren't covering them all. Every day, new social collaboration ISVs pop up. The same is true for social media marketing, social analytics and any other software with the word “social” prefixing its name.

The market can’t support all of these vendors especially when they have giants such as SAP, Oracle and Microsoft to compete against. The strongest will survive as an alternative to the biggest vendors and many more will disappear or have been rendered irrelevant. I expect to see half the number of vendors that call themselves “social” by the end of 2013.

Social collaboration, social marketing, social channels merge with enterprise apps

The Social Enterprise is a way of doing business. Technology only exists to enable that. Social Enterprise can’t exist as a separate category for long. It will fold into enterprise business applications as a feature set more than a product category. This is good since it represents the best way to harness the real advantages of the Social Enterprise in a way that generates real business results.

Social analytics for both external social media and internal enterprise social networks become more important than ever

As actual knowledge workers start to use enterprise social networks, while more and more companies realize that they have to know what is happening in Twitter, Facebook, blogs and every other form of social media, there will be too much data for mere humans to crunch. They will need big data platforms to get value and context from all the information being generated.

2013 will also be the year companies stop accepting sentiment analysis without asking about how it is validated against real-world results.

Cloud software pricing drops through the floor

In 2012, even the price of enterprise social networks with (to many companies) unproven business value averaged between US$ 10-20 per user per month. Now along comes Microsoft with incredibly aggressive pricing for cloud versions of core productivity applications.

Dropping the price of Yammer to only US$ 3 per user per month was a big enough deal. More jaw dropping was the US$ 8 per user per month cost for Yammer, Office 365 and SharePoint Online. That’s about 25 percent of my monthly Starbucks bill for an entire office’s productivity and collaboration suite that I can access anywhere from most any device.

We won’t see enterprise applications such as CRM or ERP drop that low, but these will reset the expectations that companies will have when it comes to software costs.

So, if 2012 felt like a roller coaster, 2013 will be more like a ride in a jet fighter. This will be tough on some companies as they struggle to keep up with the pace of change. It will be tough on some vendors as they struggle against well-financed, well-positioned giant competitors. It will be, however, worth it when the real promise of the Social Enterprise starts to emerge as quantifiable business value.

Image courtesy of sahua d (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Curious to read Tom's take on what happened in 2012? Read Social Collaboration in 2012 - Moving at Light Speed