Forrester published a report about the future of the Social Web. I dont yet have access to the entire report but according to Jeremiah Owyang's blog entry on the subject, Forrester has defined five "eras" of the social web. You can check it out here.
The researcher for Forrester also notes on his blog how brands / companies should prepare. All of these are good to keep in mind when discussing social media with clients:
What’s interesting isn’t this vision for the future, but what it holds in store for brands, as a result, companies should prepare by:
- Don’t Hesitate: These changes are coming at a rapid pace, and we’re in three of these eras by end of year. Brands should prepare by factoring in these eras into their near term plans. Don’t be left behind and let competitors connect with your community before you do.
- Prepare For Transparency: People will be able to surf the web with their friends, as a result you must have a plan. Prepare for every webpage and product to be reviewed by your customers and seen by prospects –even if you choose not to participate.
- Connect with Advocates: Focus on customer advocates, they will sway over prospects, and could defend against detractors. Their opinion is trusted more than yours, and when the power shifts to community, and they start to define what products should be, they become more important than ever.
- Evolve your Enterprise Systems: Your enterprise systems will need to connect to the social web. Social networks and their partners are quickly becoming a source of customer information and lead generation beyond your CRM system. CMS systems will need to inherit social features –pressure your vendors to offer this, or find a community platform.
- Shatter your Corporate Website: In the most radical future, content will come to consumers –rather than them chasing it– prepare to fragment your corporate website and let it distribute to the social web. Let the most important information go and spread to communities where they exist; fish where the fish are.