Social business is everywhere. Everything from social media to advanced collaboration technologies have taken hold in the workplace and in our personal lives.
While a certain fatigue may be setting in as we’re deluged with messages from a myriad of channels, social is proving to be more powerful than ever as a medium to reach new customers.
The worldwide social business market is expected to reach $121 billion by 2019, according to IDC, and by 2020, 30 percent of all purchases will be made through digital communities. Dominant social media platforms — such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest — are already successfully targeting customers through personalized and sophisticated offers as the first step in the sales cycle.
Social has matured. And underlying the social shift is the evolution of digital technologies and models, allowing business to out-maneuver competitors and capture new markets. What are the key technologies that businesses are using? Hybrid cloud, cognitive computing, and other emerging possibilities.
The social platform is cloud
From developing new social apps to serving up data, the cloud has emerged as a leading driver of technological change. While use of both public and private cloud continues to surge, new research shows that it’s actually hybrid environments that underpin the success of many digital initiatives. In fact, hybrid cloud has become the de facto state of IT.
Eighty-five percent of leading organizations are using hybrid cloud to power their digital transformations. These leaders are more likely to be using hybrid to deliver new digital services, to use APIs to speed app development, and to kick-start new Internet of Things and data initiatives.
Next stop: cognitive
Understanding all forms of data, including the flow of social information, is a priority for every business in the age of the digital-savvy consumer. Recognizing the importance of data insights, leading organizations are implementing and standardizing organization-wide analytics capabilities and acquiring skills from CDOs to data scientists.
A key differentiator for organizations using sophisticated analytics is the adoption of cognitive capabilities — the use of adaptive, self-learning systems to garner intelligent recommendations to make better decisions.
Using advanced real-time prescriptive and predictive capabilities is a competitive advantage for companies such as Under Armour, which is building apps that help people train and maintain fitness by learning how they work out, and connecting to data and services from other sources.
Cognitive can also have an impact on virtually any data-rich industry from healthcare to education.
Social becomes emotional
While the research and academic communities push the boundaries of tech innovation, the next logical leap in the cognitive journey may be the use of affective computing — systems that can interpret and simulate human emotions.
Pepper, a lovable cognitive robot, is already showing how affective capabilities can be valuable not just to listen and talk, but to understand the emotional element in human conversation and respond with context sensitivity. This can be applied directly in areas such as customer service or health services.
But for the deluge of social data such as images, video, and audio — or all or the “dark data” that has yet to be explored — affective computing has the potential to provide new insights and uncover new relationships. It may give new meaning to each 140-character tweet.
Digital reinvention is at the center of most business strategies today, and it’s accelerating the investment in proven and emerging technologies that give companies an edge.
Previously published on Forbes, April 4, 2016.