Collaborative customer interfaces, social co-browsing, mobile virtual worlds and social TV are just a few of the innovations on the rise in the Gartner 2013 Hype Cycle for Social Software. The adoption and use of social technologies, techniques and capabilities have increased to meet business demands and their progress goes hand in hand with growing business expectations for their use.

“IT leaders must keep abreast of this evolving sector in order to take advantage of social capabilities and understand the implications that social software developments have for related technologies,” says Jeffrey Mann, research vice-president at Gartner. “As social technologies mature and organisations improve their understanding of how to apply them, they will be found in more and more situations. Increasingly, social technologies are not implemented on a stand-alone basis, but are tightly integrated within a variety of other technologies, including business, IT operations, unified communications and collaboration applications.”

Vendors are increasingly adopting a “wrap-around” approach in which social capabilities are not things one buys in themselves, but are included as part of something else. This trend is particularly prevalent with HR management, customer relationship management and other business application vendors.

“Given the rapid advance of social software in terms of adoption and sophistication, CIOs and other IT leaders in all organisations — irrespective of size, industry and region — should frequently review their assumptions, strategies and competitive positioning,” says Mann. “For most categories of enterprise software, behavioral changes are required to achieve successful outcomes. Be purposeful in pursuing social initiatives, and prepare to evolve your strategy continuously.

The social software market’s landscape continues to evolve rapidly in response to hype, greater visibility and, more importantly, demand from organisations for advanced and secure solutions. As some technologies become well-understood and advance toward the Slope of Enlightenment, newer technologies are rising along the Hype Cycle at the Innovation Trigger. In 2013, these include:

Collaborative Customer Interfaces
A collaborative customer interface enables a customer service agent and a customer to share, simultaneously, the live version of the same business application. This requires the organisation to redesign the graphical user interface (GUI) and the underlying technologies to dynamically generate personalised interfaces. As a result, in industries such as financial services, travel and B2B customer support, businesses will be able to offer highly personalised customer experiences, as well as a feeling of participation by the customers in the resolution of their issues.

Social Co-browsing
Social co-browsing is the collaborative sharing of the same Web space with one or more parties from a social network, regardless of the physical locations of the parties. Through social co-browsing, the parties can share a browser view and simultaneously browse a website. By providing technologies for two or more customers to collaborate and share Web space in a social co-browsing environment, organisations can turn happy and loyal customers into service and sales representatives. Social software and collaborative browsing are becoming more interlinked, and can successfully work together to enable customers to share Web screen space with others.

Mobile Virtual Worlds
A mobile virtual world is a simulated environment where subscribers inhabit and interact via avatars running on mobile devices. It can be a mobile extension of a PC, a Web-based virtual world or a pure mobile service. Mobile virtual worlds are aimed at young users (tweens or teens), mostly to support gaming or social networking on mobile devices. However, these new mobile application paradigms might innovate traditional mobile application interfaces and significantly transform the interaction style and application designs during the next three years. Areas that might see benefits from adoption include marketing, advertising and customer service.

Social TV
Social TV describes communication and social interaction in the context of watching TV or content related to TV through broadband-connected TVs, or through the use of a companion screen, such as a media tablet. It can apply to community engagement with linear TV programming in real time or asynchronous social features added to or referencing on-demand content. Although broadcasters are unlikely to see much direct monetisation from social TV beyond viewer engagement and a new promotional channel for content, its indirect effects are more profound. Social features can reinforce synchronous viewing of linear programming and thus increase the value of live broadcast rights for certain content.
Social TV also represents an important competitive landscape among pure-play digital app and platform providers, device and TV manufacturers, TV programmers and their sponsors, and TV service providers. It is already disruptive in areas such as TV metrics and ratings, and nonlinear distribution. Social TV has effectively taken over the role once assigned to interactive TV as symbolising the future of the TV experience. Its broadest impact remains unpredictable, but we can be certain that innovators who discover the right way to bring social and TV experiences together for consumers will be richly rewarded.