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Is this the end of Social Networks in the Enterprise?

|Includes: Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)


Social networking has clearly reached the top of the Geoffrey Moore Crossing the Chasm chart. LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and Xing encompass hundreds of millions of users with multiples of thousands joining every day.  People are clearly attached to their social networking sites with many checking making it a central part of their daily routine.  On the other hand, social networking inside the walls of the corporation has little traction with the exception of those that are using it for personal purposes. 

To make matters worse, many corporate executives either dismiss social networking as a time-wasting activity or single it out as a governance issue. They justifiably are concerned with employees leaking corporate secrets, developing personal relationships on company time, or trusting people’s profiles online without real attempts at authentication.

Still the promise of social networking in the enterprise still convinces some executives to purchase systems that claim to replicate social networking within the walls of the corporation.  They see the hype and adoption of social networking sites and believe magically that the same principles work internally. 

Well it doesn’t and here’s why.  Social networking is user centric and is about connecting people on a one to one basis.  In effect the user is the axis and everything and everyone else revolves around them.  The individual is king and everything is organized to suit his or her needs.

In contrast, most corporations are in business to make a profit for their investors, employees or shareholders.  Customers are king and the corporation is organized to produce products and services to suit their needs.  It’s difficult if not impossible to simultaneously fulfill the needs of the individual employee while focusing on the needs of the customer (especially in the current economic climate).   &amp...   

Aaron FulkersonEnter today’s first generation of Collaborative Networks that encourages groups of people to converge to produce crowd sourced content, ideas and solutions.  Aaron Fulkerson writes about this new concept on his extremely popular post in Enterprise Collaborative Networks.  These innovative companies claim that Enterprise Collaboration Networks can be used to increase productivity and efficiency. They assert it can facilitate a culture of accountability that values results, transparency, and innovation.  Most important, it can be an effective way to build a customer-centric organization that listens to its customers and discovers new information from that interaction that increases revenue.

Yet as corporate management authority Gary Hamel has said, "While the Web was founded on the principle of openness, the most honored virtue among senior executives seems to be control. Most companies have elaborate programs for top-down communication, including newsletters, CEO blogs, Webcasts and broadcast e-mails. Yet few, if any, companies have opened the floodgates to grassroots opinion on critical issues."

These are tough objections to overcome. Still companies like MindTouch and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Sharepoint are finally gaining momentum in corporations, with an urgency amplified by the current economic climate. It's now foreseeable that due to the success of social networking, an enterprise focus on corporate objectives (instead of individuals) will start a movement towards widespread enterprise adoption.