Enterprise social apps too often get a lukewarm reception, but there are steps IT can take to improve adoption and use.
Crunch The Numbers
Even though companies have widely deployed enterprise social networking over the last couple of years, it's not at the core of how most of them collaborate, our survey finds. Eighty-seven percent of the companies in our survey have some form of internal social network (a blog, wiki, or portal, for instance), and the majority have had these systems in place less than three years.
But usage is lagging. Only one social networking feature--online profiles--is in heavy or moderate use at more than half of the companies (53%) in our survey. Wikis, discussion forums, and blogs trail far behind--more than 20% of survey respondents say these features are in place but rarely used.
When it comes to social platforms, Microsoft SharePoint continues to lead the pack--63% of respondents use its social functions, our survey finds, though that's down from the 71% who did last year. SharePoint's dominance may be slipping as companies adopt cloud applications such as Google Sites (19%) and Salesforce.com Chatter (11%) or build their own (18%). Most companies still host their social networking platforms internally (65%), but this percentage dropped 7 points from a year ago, as businesses move to cloud options.
One bright spot in this year's survey is a notable drop in the percentage of respondents who say IT must explain social networking's role to the company--down to 15% from 21% a year ago. That finding is important, because IT will need the support of company executives as well as the rank-and-file to make social networking a vital part of employees' lives.
When it comes to interacting on public social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, most companies still fall down when it comes to monitoring, security, and even responsiveness to customer complaints. For instance, the percentage of companies in our survey that monitor social networks for discussions about their own or competing businesses actually dipped 2 points this year, to 36%, while the percentage of companies with an official or unofficial presence on social sites rose considerably--Facebook presence is up 11 points, to 66%, while Twitter presence is up 8 points to 53%. So put your company's message out there, but don't bother to track how it's being received?
Internally, most companies use the basic tools of social networking: online directories, forums, and wikis. But those tools are just the beginning of a vibrant social platform. This year we see a slight rise in the percentage of companies using more advanced social networking tools, such as social bookmarking and tagging. Still, only 23% of respondents use them heavily or moderately.
Social bookmarking includes features such as Facebook's "like" button, a simple way for people to indicate their preferences for particular content. On an internal social network, bookmarking can help useful or interesting content get noticed. You might follow your boss, a colleague, or a project group, so you're alerted anytime one f them tags something and thus might find a relevant discussion or document. Tagging is similar to bookmarking but also lets people add a keyword or two to provide more context.
Chances are good that your existing social networking platform has social bookmarking and tagging features. If it doesn't, many open source and commercial plug-ins are available, as is integration with LinkedIn and Facebook "likes."
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