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Global CIO: CIOs Shattering Social Media Taboos, RightNow Says

As the social web's business value has outstripped security concerns, CIOs have begun buying, RightNow claims.

While many CIOs spent much of 2009 on the battlements trying to fight off the relentless waves of social-media invaders, customer-experience specialist RightNow says those same to-the-death defenders have reversed their approach dramatically here in 2010 and have begun demanding that extensive layers of social capabilities be woven into their customer-experience applications and processes.

Now, let us stipulate up front that RightNow is an aggressive developer and marketer of applications for managing consumer interactions across the web and contact centers and social media, so such a sea change in CIOs attitudes toward social media would certainly be a great thing for the company.

But RightNow says that in recent months it has signed deals with 30 clients—including a significant number of large consumer brands—that will let those companies engage with customers in social media in sweeping new ways. Those 30 social-media-minded clients include MySpace, 3M, Clorox, Shutterfly, Guidewire, and Blackboard as early-stage advocates for looking to establish "peer-to-peer support and drive product innovation by capturing customers' best ideas" on the social web.

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"Customers have absolutely begun buying our products specifically for the social components, and in fact they're requiring that those elements be woven into everything they get from us," said RightNow chief solutions officer David Vap.

"For the first time, we're not hearing anguished concerns about lawyers, security, exposure, and so forth." Quite the opposite, according to Vap, who then offered an eye-popping description of just how powerful this new trend has become.

"Customers are doing more than talking about it—they're paying and they're moving on it more aggressively than any trend I've ever seen in my career," Vap said.

"It is fascinating to see. It's been like the flip of a switch—like the tsunami reached the shallow water and really hit."

Again, let's bear in mind that RightNow's got a very subjective interest here—but even with that, the company's recent surge in customers aggressively taking up social-web tools to gain better access to what's really happening in their marketplaces is a sign of an enormous change in outlook.

I was particularly taken by Vap's comment about how the demonstrable increase in customer knowledge and engagement and intimacy has finally trumped the earlier and understandable concerns about privacy, security, legal exposure, and so forth. Take another look at his comment because it should provide a huge jolt of inspiration to any CIO still wringing his or her hands over whether the admission of social media into the corporate pantheon will spell the end of life as we know it:

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