Sorry, you REALLY don’t know Social

I have really tried to stay away from the whole "social" craze that has been going on for the past 18 months and now that the chips have fallen into their places and people have made it known their "public" stance and at the same time many sharing their somewhat opposite "private" stance, it is finally time for me to point out the major differences between Microsoft's social strategy and other large competitor's strategy.  If I was to ask people in the SharePoint community what they know of IBM's Social strategy, I'm pretty sure I'll get nothing back.  And it is kinda unfair to ask given the large amount of drunkenness that people have from the spiked Microsoft koolaid, but I don't think anyone should be talking about social without *REALLY* knowing all the ways in which you can implement social.

So back to the question, do you know the difference between Microsoft and IBM's social strategy?  The goal of this post is to outline the very HUGE differences, but before I do that, let me drop a very simple primeval business equation on the table (which I have referenced many times before):

Profit = Revenue – Cost

You can't run a business unless you make some type of profit (unless you are a non-profit).  This equation points to the fact that in order to increase your profit, you must increase revenue or decrease costs.  Now, accounting and investment types will say, hey, there is more to it than that!  I'll simply say, no jackass, there isn't.  In good times you might be able to move money from this bucket or to that bucket (or defer it), but in the end, if push comes to shove, cash is king and you better be ready to divvy up your reserves (if you have any). 

So with that said, the goal of implementing any new piece of software or initiative should be either to increase revenue, or decrease costs.  This is where we start to see the differences between Microsoft and IBM start to become very clear.

Microsoft's Social strategy is internally facing only

What, you say it's more than that!?!  OK all you smarty pants…take this screen shot for instance:


What does this mean?  SharePoint, Yammer, et all, are all targeted at making employees more efficient by helping them to discover information faster.  Either by people search, tagging or content search.  In terms of Yammer, it is designed to be utilized by internal corporate individuals. Although there are instances of external networks being created and allowing people to join in on conversations, it is still designed (and marketed) to lower costs.  There is no current benefit of implementing Yammer to directly influence revenue.  Although a case can be made that "not so smart" sales people can find that doc or technical expert to close a sale, but that is an indirect effect.

IBM's View of Social

IBM takes a completely different view on Social.  The focus is NOT on reducing costs, but on generating revenue and keeping customers happy! This is a drastically different approach with a completely different way of sales and marketing.  Check out IBM's Social page:

That's pretty amazing…the difference isn't two shades of gray, it is black and white!   Lost your way on the page because it was too dark a color of blue?  OK, let me highlight it for you by outlining IBM's mergers and acquisitions:

  • June 15, 2010 – Cormetrics – this acquisition enhanced IBM's ability to help
    businesses rapidly gain intelligence into social networks and online
    media sources through a cloud-based delivery model, and use this insight
    to create smarter, more effective marketing campaigns (ie, know what's happening on your external facing applications and any social networks your company has a presence on).
  • April 25, 2012 – Vivisimo – specializing in the development of computer search engines (similar to Microsoft's FAST search acquisition), since I personally know the folks in Oslo, I'm going to say Microsoft won this search battle for the moment, but that doesn't mean IBM can't catch up
  • May 2, 2013 – Tealeaf technology – Tealeaf's products are used to provide visibility into the online
    customer experience by capturing, analyzing and replaying details of
    customers' visits to find site errors or issues and understand the
    impact that transaction failures have on business processes (ie make sure customers buy stuff and don't leave your site using social avenues).
  • All IBM merger and acquisitions

To be fair to Microsoft, all of these have been to compete against Microsoft in one way or another so props to Microsoft SVPs for that.  However, the last of the social purchases is where the two companies went in two different directions.  IBM took the revenue approach, Microsoft took the cost approach.  In different times, these two strategies would be of value.  For example, when revenue is hard to come by (like a few years ago), IBM's choice would have been the loser.  But now as revenue starts to come back (hence the rise in the stock market over the past year), the revenue approach is the winning strategy at the moment.  Anything you can do to "convert" that website visitor to a paying customer is going to fall into priority number one (if you have a web site presence anyway). For those mom and pop shops, Microsoft is your friend, for larger corporations, uhh, you better be looking at IBM.  Here's the current products that have evolved from their purchases:

  • IBM Connections Platform
  • IBM Smarter Workflow
  • IBM Smarter Commerce
  • IBM Customer Experience Suite
  • IBM Social and Digital Analytics Suite
  • Organization and People Strategy

Take a look at this Gartner magic quadrant that for some reason everybody drools over, but its all a scam behind the scenes so do with it what you will


Oh my…do you see that?  Microsoft, IBM and Jive Software.  The community talks about Yammer and Jive, but rarely do I hear anything about IBM from the "social experts".  You can't call yourself an expert and not know what IBM is doing.  Seriously people. 

So, what happens when everyone's darling company (that we all use) Facebook, decides to take on private social networks with integrated authentication portal software?  I'd bet money Microsoft and IBM will lose the battle given Facebook's fresh injection of billions from its IPO.  Do you see it on the Gartner list?  Nope.  Will you see it on the list?  I'd bet money on it, give them another year or two.

Oh and check out who the cool kids are on the social block:

Research and knowledge is power, exert yourselves.

Leave a Reply