By Sarah Lacy
I still think “Enterprise 2.0” is a meh business trend with a horrible name. It’s not that social media/collaboration tools don’t have a role in business, and I agree there are some situations where consumer tools aren’t the right fit. A great example is Twitter versus Yammer. (Oh, if you only saw the conversations that happen on TechCrunch’s Yammer feed…)
But I don’t see Enterprise 2.0 becoming a big area of corporate spending. The tools are too cheap and easy to replicate with tons of free alternatives, and many of the vendors are just not ready for prime time. One exception might be blogging software, but don’t most companies who want a corporate blog have one by now? Rather than the next Oracle (ORCL) (who by the way was one of the study’s underwriters) or even Salesforce.com (CRM) emerging from this space, I’m betting that existing software-as-a-service companies incorporate the functionality themselves or you get a lot of built-in-house code.
There’s also the problem that nearly 20% of executives have no idea what “Enterprise 2.0″ is. That comes from a new study that’s actually talking up the adoption of Enterprise 2.0. It points out that 40% didn’t know what it was at the beginning of the year, so at least that’s progress. What’s more it says that 50% of those surveyed consider enterprise 2.0 to be “very important” to their business success. (Of course, I think working out everyday is “very important” to my weight loss goals…doesn’t mean I actually do it.)
Still, given that number is so high, it stunned me that the study also said only 7% of people over the age of 45 think that Twitter is an important rapid-feedback tool for business. Sadly, it’s not much better among younger folks: Only 27% of those between the ages of 18-30 say Twitter is an important rapid-feedback tool for business. What? Really? You may think we obsess about Twitter too much on TechCrunch, but clearly most business folks aren’t getting the memo.
Let’s put aside for a moment that there are pretty well proven test cases on how Twitter utilization has helped companies like Dell (DELL) and Comcast (CMCSA). Paying for outreach or collaboration tools without first checking out what a free, easy tool like Twitter could do is missing the entire point of the cheap flexibility and ubiquity of social media. Put another way (and to paraphrase James Carville): It’s a recession, stupid. Try the free tools first.