I wasn’t even out of the airport in Orlando, Fla., after attending SAP’s SAPPHIRE NOW user conference last week when I was surrounded by a sea of social media.
As I sat at the gate in McCoy Airport on Thursday waiting to board—and then reboard—my Delta flight home, I started reading USA Today. There, on the front page was an article about how companies like Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Dell, and SuperValu are using social media to reach customers and foster collaboration among employees. It even quotes Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com’s ubiquitous CEO, giving his take on Facebook’s impact. “At a very basic level, Facebook is the most popular application ever, with a billion people who know how to use it,” Benioff is quoted as saying. That’s high praise from Benioff, whose company launched its own Chatter social networking tool now used by 150,000 companies.
If that’s not enough to convince you of social networking’s place among the business elite, consider this other nugget of information from the same USA Today piece: The article cites Forrester Research data that predicts the sale of software to run business social networks will grow 61 percent a year to become a $6.4 billion business by 2016.
That timeline fits with another piece of research also cited in the article. It says business productivity gains from social media will really start to kick in a few years from now, noting that most tech innovations take about five years to show their worth. Social media is about two or three years in at most companies, it says.
Just as I was finishing the article, I overheard a few other people at the gate—who were also presumably returning home after the SAP event—talking about social media at their company. I tried subtly to overhear without being obvious—my ears ever to the ground for a new story idea or case study—when the conversation took a welcome turn. One of them spotted David Lee Roth, the lead singer of Van Halen, which played for an enthusiastic SAP audience at Orlando’s Amway Center the night before, boarding a plane to Minneapolis.
Thanks, David. You showed up not a moment’s too soon. At that point, I’d had just about enough talk about social media, mobile, and the cloud.