At the end of the summer, Forrester released the Q3 Wave Report for Enterprise Social Platforms. Though the report highlighted the players you would expect, the lead author, Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz, said the report was not a straight ranking but rather a "measurement of breadth of capabilities." He went on to make the point that, "The catch is that features considered essential to one enterprise can be irrelevant to another."
Therein lays the fallacy of "best of" lists. As social technology platforms try to become the defacto standard, the value companies need from a social platform continues to grow more vast and become more diverse.
As companies and social business experts work to determine what should be included in these packages, I thought it would be helpful to discuss the 10 qualities most important to a leading B2B social business platform based on our 10 years of developing enterprise social software for mid-sized and large organizations:
Characteristic #1: Integrated
These days, customer information resides in CRM systems and other databases. Social platforms need to seamlessly integrate with these systems, but also extend and enhance the customer data in these systems with information on how users are communicating and collaborating with other customers, partners, and industry professionals.
Characteristic #2: Easy to Navigate
This may seem like a simple concept, but it can be hard to execute. With the increasingly complex features of enterprise social platforms, the interface and interaction design with the system needs to be easier than ever before. The easiest way to kill collaboration is confusion.
Characteristic #3: Effectively Facilitate Discussions
Many of the companies that launch social business software started with discussions at its core. As systems get more powerful and features get more complicated, most people using a social platform are there to do one main thing - ask a question and get an answer.
Whether your community helps to do this via online forums, listservs, mobile interfaces or through all three, smoothly facilitating online discussions is a crucial feature your platform needs to get right.
Characteristic #4: People Need to Find People
Facebook is great because it taught people the value of being connected online with others. It is important to keep in mind that, in a social enterprise, people connect in different ways, and for different reasons than on Facebook. Yes, you may want to connect with someone because you are their friend, but mostly, people need a more robust means to find others in social business platforms.
On Facebook you know, or knew, the people you are searching for. On social platforms for business, you typically don't know the people you are trying to connect with, so customers have to be shown why that person is someone they would want to connect with due to industry, geography, similar interests, potential business value, or all of the above.
Characteristic #5: Store and Serve Information
Knowledge shared today, is valuable today as well as for months and years into the future. However, if your social platform cannot store and effectively serve up that information for future users, a major benefit of knowledge sharing is lost.
Many systems these days catalog and store all of the information that is shared in your social platform from discussions, files, wikis and more. Enabling a user to tap into the knowledge that has been shared in the past, creates a value for your users that makes your site a valuable tool they visit daily.