The Real Dawn of Enterprise Social? From Consolidation to Democratisation

Remember when the predominant enterprise social media strategy was about consolidating everything into one main brand account and block everyone from creating anything new or doing their own thing?

I can understand why these plans and policies were thrown at CMOs: social was threatening the marketer’s control of their brand. Locking it up in a cage was the logical way to deal with it. Even from an IT point of view an uncontrollable growing account sprawl posed a significant risk.

So how did the enterprise tech industry try and help? Well, there have been many contenders to the crown as being the solution managing social media in the enterprise — especially as they attempted to match the requirements of a lockdown on social. There’s been a growing lineup of complex social marketing products, CRM bolt-ons and industry specific point systems — and depending on which analyst report you read they’re either a Social Media Management, Social Relationship, Employee Advocacy or Social CRM platform.

But for me, few, if any, have addressed one major problem which is that in 2026 everyone joining the workforce will have lived with social media since they were born. And already today there are more social media accounts (5.6 billion) than there are email addresses (4.3 billion).

It was in fact something I tried to solve 6 years ago whilst working at the law firm SJ Berwin. In my architecture for the firm’s social I was keen to not only bring control and efficiency to firm accounts — but also look at how we could leverage our employees. But the technology was simply not there and could only help bring order to the law firm’s corporate handles.

From the Home to the Office

There is a new frontier on the horizon. We are about to witness a new long-term epoch in Enterprise Social which will prepare you for the impending onslaught of digital expectation from the workforce and address the full spectrum of potential users in your company no matter their maturity.

Technological shifts that has inspired me most in the enterprise have been when there has been a transition from personal consumption to business use. Look at document writing or sending emails, the now most common of workplace activities, which were kickstarted by the proliferation of the shiny home PCs or Apple Macs. Word for documents, Gmail for email, iOS for Mobile.

All these technologies were refined for the lowest common denominator in terms of digital maturity and have now been deployed across every business transforming how the enterprise operates and brought levels of achievement at a scale never before seen.

Although social media has always been about democratisation — few organisations have mustered the courage to treat the same as email or even the telephone. In many ways that’s because enterprise social platforms of today have focussed on largely being as complex as possible to meet the needs of a select elite within organisations that were consolidating, rather than democratising social to the their companies.

Yes, these tools can do amazing things, but will they sustainably meet the demands that will be placed on the Enterprise? No.

What I’m excited about is how the industry is shifting to allow social to work across an entire organization in every department and for each employee. As Microsoft Word, Gmail or iOS can do — Social Enterprise Platforms will help every potential user in your organization to use social the right way. All the expected user management, efficiencies, APIs and user experience you would expect from a truly modern cloud based enterprise software solution will be there as standard.

No Backdoors

This will be an investment. We are talking about a necessary transformation for your company to become social. If you employ 1,000, 10,000 or 100,000 any real software deployment must be dealt with in the appropriate manner: procurement, integration, implementation, project management, training, education, consultancy and account management must all be considered when ensuring your journey ends in success.

Not running the process the right way will get you stuck with a failed proof of concept that works in the marketing team, but can’t scale to anyone else due to over complexity or lack of forward project planning. Questions will be raised as to why so much money was spent on a solution that can be used by so few. Long gone are the days of thinking just about your department, let alone just putting your social media management tool on a credit card. You need to work with your CIO to ensure you are delivering value for everyone.

As the chart above shows, the Enterprise Social platforms you will be looking at will need to add value across the whole spectrum of potential users in your organization. They must seamlessly integrate into the every day working lives of your colleagues with basic digital skills who will make up the largest proportion of your user base.

Up until now only specialists have been catered for with Enterprise Social Media Management Systems and deployments, now they will need to be for everyone.

The next challenge, which is likely to be addressed hand in hand with an enterprise social transformation project, will be how to increase the digital maturity of people so more value can be gained from technology, social media and their personal networks.

I’m feeling reinvigorated at Hootsuite about working with more companies to help achieve this. It has taken five years to get to a point where platforms can truly enable a transformation with social in business, but it has definitely been worth the wait.