By Charlene Li
We just published a new report, "Social Computing: How Networks Erode Institutional Power, And What To Do About It" (available to clients only, but it's getting some good distribution as I'm getting pinged about it left and right). Here's the Executive Summary:
"Easy connections brought about by cheap devices, modular content, and shared computing resources are having a profound impact on our global economy and social structure. Individuals increasingly take cues from one another rather than from institutional sources like corporations, media outlets, religions, and political bodies. To thrive in an era of Social Computing, companies must abandon top-down management and communication tactics, weave communities into their products and services, use employees and partners as marketers, and become part of a living fabric of brand loyalists."
Forrester defines social computing as "A social structure in which technology puts power in communities, not institutions." We also believe that three tenets define social computing:
1) innovation will shift from top-down to bottom-up;
2) value will shift from ownership to experience; and
3) power will shift from institutions to communities?
Now, this sounds all simplistic and theoretical, but I think there's a great deal of power in the idea of social computing. With full respect to the definition of Web 2.0, I believe that the concept of social computing is the underpinning of much of the pain that companies are feeling around new technologies like blogging and RSS. But as I often stress, it's not about the technologies but about the new relationships that users will form. Technologies will come and go, but the power built on the relationships created by social computing will endure.
To fully appreciate the value of social computing, companies have to let go of control. That means letting customers control the brand if you're a marketer, and it means enabling new enterprise tools that IT can't easily control to attract and support employees with high social computing needs. In many ways, this is the source of the great distress that I routinely hear from corporate managers.
The goal of the report is to be the foundation piece for a key area of research for Forrester. So if you've had a chance to read the report, I'd love to hear what you think of it.