Why Enterprise Social Networking has not taken off…

Social Networking and Collaboration are not the same thing

We have watched the social networking world hit an all time high with tools like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn to name a few of the larger players.  Software companies have attempted to capitalize on the social networking trend in the enterprise for the past 8 years (or more) with little traction.  The best we have seen is the introduction of instant messaging in the enterprise several years back.  However micro blogging, and social networking continue to lag behind.

I think the keyword in social networking for the enterprise is the word “social”, have your noticed your facebook and twitter updates include things like:

  • Mood status
  • Faith based encouragements
  • What my kid(s) did this evening
  • Where I am eating lunch
  • Political point of view (usually with a strong bias of who a person does not like or agree with)
  • My plane either landed or is late
  • … again just to name a few

All of which have no business value and leave me no motivation to post on a work related social networking site.  Could you imagine the backlash of posting a mood status that had anything to do with how someone made you feel at work?!

Sure there are creative ways for me to post business related information like events, announcements, business related information, inquires for assistance, etc.  However we must realize the social networking and collaboration are not the same thing.  The real enterprise push is more toward pulling together resources and people (yes arguably a form of social networking), but a much stronger case for collaboration.

There have been many tools in the enterprise that enable collaboration for sometime now including the following;

  • intranet technology (managed and unmanaged content)
  • instant messaging
  • enterprise and desktop search
  • document repositories
  • email
  • web conferencing
  • corporate directories
  • shared calendars
  • mobile devices (phones, tablets, laptops)

The ability to pull these tools together in a common, easy to use solution will enable companies to better collaborate, find resources and people to help them communicate information, share ideas and drive efficiency.  The point is I think the enterprise would benefit more from well defined collaboration strategies instead of social networking initiatives inside company walls, if nothing else due lack of motivation to provide social updates on corporate owned infrastructure and the potential backlash it could cause in the work place.

Comments (2)
  1. On the whole, I agree with the root point you are making.  Fact is, most companies do not know how to leverage collaboration tools much less social networking tools.  Most organizations lack strong champions, executive support, or critical mass workforce adoptions of either  (…other than Sharepoint which you should blog on –or– maybe we can co-blog and treat like ESPN's PTI — I'll take the GoogleApps side, but I digress…)

    Admittedly, I might be too embedded in the 2.0 world for thinking the door isn't yet closed yet for social networking — in fact I might suggest that a lot of companies have heard about that door but haven't actually walked through it.  Truly, if I felt  "social networking" translated into "personal status updates" I would have no hope for it, but there are glimmers of hope!  I have seen it work!  My examples come from our professional services company, where we have found significant value in our internal social networking toolset.  Here are a few ways we leverage social networks…

    1. Yammer (private twitter) – We communicate both from the mountain and from the village, from company events to interesting blogs & articles, technology announcements, event reminders, and calls for expert advice/opinion.  Remember the days of Wednesday "weekly newsletters" at our former company? With social networking why do we have to wait a week?  I now know that so-and-so started a new assignment this morning, they we just delivered a successful project at ACME, Inc. or maybe just that it's my co-worker's employment anniversary. As an employee in a highly distributed and mobile workforce, this helps us remain connected to other employees and the operations team while at client sites. While it doesn't replace a "staff manager" role it certainly augments the "feeling connected gap" the role seeks to fill. Additionally, most of us have a smart phone which allows us to have the yammer iPhone or Android application serve up instant updates. In short, I think if polled our employees would tell you that yammer significantly improves the employee experience — which should be something that every company strives for.

    2. Facebook/Twitter – We communicate again both from the mountain and from the village content that we feel will be relevant to our customers, partners, and the marketplace.  We most often to this as individuals on behalf of the company… after all, companies don't talk — people do!!  Zappos figured this out early on.  The model has been successfull with hundreds of companies and it's one we use as well. My co-workers and I share content from company events, we react to changes in the marketplace or with technologies, and most importantly we collectively listen to what others are saying.  As the saying goes, God gave us two ears (or in this case eyes) and one mouth for a reason — and the more eyes the better. When employees tweet, we use a proprietary hash tag, and picked up by our tweet coordinator via tweetdeck who reviews and retweets on the company's channel.

    3. LinkedIn – Similar to Facebook and Twitter, we leverage LinkedIn as individuals and on behalf of our company, but with a different twist because the content and purpose of the network is significantly different. We collectively scan for opportunities and people within our network who are seeking employment. While it's great to have effective recruiters and account executives leveraging their networks, the true power is in harvesting and leveraging the power of the entire company's network.

    We also deploy an entire suite of collaboration options which are viewed and leveraged both internally and externally with a toolkit mentality.  Unlike our social networking tools, our collaboration tools tend to contain content which has longer expiration dates, have more highly defined audiences, or require stricter permissions.  Like you, we have realized that our social networking tools are not our collaboration tools and vice versa; however, we've also found ways to deploy social networking with great value to the enterprise by creating a more informed and tightly woven employee community.

  2. Arthur Huynh says:

    You're right! It's all about strategy. There are a few prime examples of companies that have found strategies that work for them. I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about this: http://bit.ly/9sF89b. But the ability to set up a social media marketing strategy (or hire a marketing agency to do that) is quite expensive, especially if you're a small start-up or underdog whose trying to make their mark on the world.  

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