Educating technology markets and communities is now, more than ever, a function of influence, social media, digital word of mouth—and of cultivating an ecosystem of trusted collaboration. The role of social media and the power of personal connections have really become dominant forces in how people learn how to find and use technology.
This is such a major departure from the past—marketing has changed more in the last 5 years than the previous 50—that any instruction on what actually works best these days is highly prized.
Therefore, I’ve been keenly interested in how the hottest new wave of marketing—digital social influence—intersects with one the hottest areas of cloud computing—software-as-a-service (SaaS) collaboration and documents/objects sharing.
Do these new waves double-up, cancel out, create an interference pattern, or harmonize in new and valuable ways? I really want to know.
So I helped guide the creation of a list of the top 25 U.S. SharePoint influencers, recently unveiled at the recent SharePoint 2014 Conference in Las Vegas. The effort was sponsored by harmon.ie, the provider of a collaboration app for a single-screen, seamless user experience anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
I’ll be doing a BriefingsDirect podcast soon with a panel of these newly identified influencers on SharePoint challenges and opportunities to help find out what matters most in the SharePoint ecosystem.
I’ve been an avid observer of Microsoft for more than 20 years. At one time, there was no better company in all of IT at marketing and evangelizing into multiple user bases: developers, channel, independent software vendors (ISVs), end users, and enterprises.
But what about now, given that the evangelizing game has changed so much? Can Microsoft, which itself is undergoing wrenching transitions, be as good at the new marketing ways as in the past? Again, I really want to know.
Industry influencers are the tip on the arrow of how social media can be a positive force for sharing knowledge—whether it’s on Twitter or blogs or at events. With influencers, I benefit from them and they benefit from me. This is the same for anyone engaged in social media. So it’s really a powerful way to learn and to then add something to that learning process to then make it almost a hive-mentality or ecosystem-mentality affair.
It’s no surprise that of the top 25 SharePoint influencers that we identified, 48 percent are SharePoint specialists or consultants. The other two major categories are senior executives and SharePoint architects/engineers/developers. And gender equality had a good year, as the growth in women SharePoint influencers over the previous year—up to 4 spots and 16 percent of the list—marks a significant rise over only 1 female influencer on the 2013 list.
It’s the people in the know, in the technology trenches, that see both the forest and trees that can then effectively influence the way markets learn.
So I am very bullish on the role of influencers as a spark or catalyst for larger social interactions and for new wave knowledge transfer. Those social interactions in a discrete community like the SharePoint ecosystem are a big part of what drives innovation, and can help users as well as supplier companies understand the best course for products and services.
Of course, the role of SharePoint, Yammer, and Office 365 is rapidly shifting into more of a cloud-collaboration, hive offering itself. So how apropos for it to use social influence to evangelize tools that consequently promote social influence and knowledge sharing?
You have to remember that SharePoint, once likened to a corporate intranet, is extending into a cloud platform with SharePoint 2013. It’s far more integratable. And, there are rich features for security and versioning of file data. Exchange is also becoming predominately cloud-oriented in its new function drive.
The boundaries then between all these Microsoft communications 'products' are blurring because they are increasingly bundles of cloud data services.
Marketing products is so 1990s. Letting the social-hive support a fast-evolving hive of cloud-based collaboration services is so now. That’s why Microsoft must become adept at social and must properly influence the influencers. There’s no better way to scale down its cloud services—SharePoint and Office 365 chief among them. Single office/home office (SOHO) and small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are where these services should grow like crazy, especially for those used to working with Exchange, Outlook, and Office. They will be guided by their chosen social milieu and peers, not by Microsoft’s spec sheets and sales force.
So check out the list of top SharePoint influencers, and also consider how the role of influencers is not so much outsized as right-sized. As companies and workers seek better collaboration and coordination among themselves, they will look to among themselves for the best means. SharePoint needs to be this chosen common controlled hive for employees, especially through the mobile tier.
And look for our BriefingsDirect podcast soon with a panel of these latest influencers. Many are returning because this is the third consecutive annual list of SharePoint influencers.
It seems to me that the voice of the community, whether it’s around a product or service or an industry or a vertical market, should be really important to vendors like Microsoft. They should be, I think, pretty sensitive to learning from the community, and I hope the community takes the opportunity to voice its opinion and make its requirements known as these companies produce new products and adjusts their strategies.
But this is a time where change is ripe, and Microsoft is in a position to react in a way that only benefits the users. The influencers can certainly show them how.