Just about everyone on the planet has become familiar with the tech boom’s most profitable candidates. The terms ‘social networking’ and ‘cloud computing’ are now in common usage and tweeting is no longer just the flurry of activity from birds outside one’s bedroom window at first light.

Social websites such as Twitter and Facebook have made young entrepreneurs into millionaires and billionaires. These relatively adolescent social technologies are not just for the young and tech-savvy. Social media has been adopted by businesses of all sizes to reach consumers, launch campaigns and offers and provide a measurable approach to marketing and business development. The adoption of these technologies into the mainstream lives of consumers has made them a priority for just about every business. This has led to a stampede of innovative companies vying for a piece of the social media environment. Most will fail, not because of a lack of product functionality, but because they lack the big marketing budgets and the PR capabilities of the major tech corporations. It’s easier for big companies to swoop on established small-time start-ups than to build such platforms from scratch. It is the hope of being swept off one’s feet or written a blank cheque that fuels the development of today’s social media start-ups.

While most major corporations are taking the plunge into the volatile, unfaithful social media environment, consumer behaviour is fickle and today’s social media craze can easily become tomorrow’s social media disaster.

One company rumoured to be making a large acquisition and a bold (if not notoriously late) entry into the social media environment is Microsoft. What was once the world’s most innovative computer company is making a $1.2 billion takeover bid for social media upstart ‘Yammer’. Yammer has been in the technology game for about four years and has more than five million users, a competitive advantage that Microsoft obviously values highly. In the face of social media giants Facebook and Twitter, one wonders just what market share Microsoft expects to take in this already highly saturated and over-competitive environment.

On further analysis, it seems they could be looking at developing a social networking platform that companies can ‘marry’ to the personal and social lives of their staff and customers. A potentially intricate marriage between social media, business management and consumer marketing. The goal is a constantly ‘plugged-in’ audience, their trends and movements tracked 24/7. Such data would be invaluable to companies who want to know exactly what makes their consumers tick. Corporations have not adopted a single solid platform as the standard to roll out across their internal social networking environment.

What separates Yammer from existing social media platforms is management and storage. We all know how powerful ‘the cloud’ has become, with companies such as Drop Box and Sugar Sync cashing in on corporate demand for reliable storage ‘in the air’ with unlimited back-up potential. Yammer appears to have a platform that can manage the social activities of customers and staff, host a corporate framework and provide large online cloud storage capacity.

It is this marriage of secure online content management, complete CRM facilities and social interaction that tech start-ups and existing giants are likely to create. Think Facebook-meets-Twitter-meets-Drop Box combined with a business tool such as Sales Force - a perfect marriage of marketing and management for corporations.

This may well be behind Microsoft’s foray into the social media and online storage arenas. Google has made strong headway with its collaboration of Gmail, Google Docs and Google Drive but is still missing the vital social media aspect.

Convincing consumers to wed their lives to just one online platform could be the hardest task and by combining an existing platform with an existing database, Microsoft may be on the right track. While capturing market share from its multi-billion dollar Silicon Valley competitors will be hard, offering a more complete and sophisticated business, marketing and social media experience could be the key.

Good luck Microsoft, it’s going to be an arduous battle.

Stay Ahead of The Game,

Lachlan McPherson