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Why Employees Don't Like Social Apps

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 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."

Which of these social networking systems does your company make moderate or heavy use of for collaboration?

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User Rank: Moderator
1/31/2012 | 10:22:49 PM
re: Why Employees Don't Like Social Apps
There are some good points raised in these comments:

1. Why should IT bother if its got mixed support from Execs
2. It's not really useful for some lines of business, but not mine

This is really where IT needs to leap in and lead. We've got a 15 year trend of personal adoption of technology outside the work. We actually help start the ball rolling with the advent of email (supported by Internet delivery) Almost nobody could get folks collaborating beyond email, we were hook.

The external social networking did the hardwork. Your staff knows what tweeting, following, updating, posting, and chatting all mean but they learnt it within the context of their personal live.

This is where Information Technology needs to lead. Figure out how to take these growing skill and leverage them to make you more competitive and prouctive. For example, A production team doesn't want to 'friend' each other, they want to work. Moving quality and production alerts out of email and into a portal where a 'twitter style' feed lets the see the status, as well as access documents, programs, etc.
User Rank: Apprentice
1/31/2012 | 3:20:48 PM
re: Why Employees Don't Like Social Apps
I work for an organization with over 30,000 global employees. I have a background in IT, but work on the business side now. I work in an area of content creation, rather than content consumption.

The company is rolling our SharePoint, but for my daily job responsibilities there is no use for it. A couple of years ago I found out about Yammer and joined the community for my company. I read the posts sometimes, but honestly for my daily responsibilities there is no use for it. It seems most of the posts on Yammer are from the marketing and sales departments, neither of which I deal with on a consistent basis.

My feeling about internal social networking, OK for sales and marketing but for everybody else ..... what's the point?
User Rank: Apprentice
1/31/2012 | 2:30:41 PM
re: Why Employees Don't Like Social Apps
Sure, "IT needs to get involved to make it happen." The question is, however, what incentive does IT have to champion a social app initiative that has only mixed support from senior management?
Justin Yuen
Justin Yuen,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/31/2012 | 12:17:07 AM
re: Why Employees Don't Like Social Apps
Great article whose time has come. I totally agree with the points raised. After the initial buzz around social enterprise collaboration platforms, you'll start seeing more rigorous analysis of the actual impact beyond vendor hype. To me, based on my experience after being in this industry since 2004, it's all about user adoption, knowing the use cases of individual departments, and offering both a platform that's simple to use with productivity features built in, in addition to services that make it easy for any group or IT department to generate adoption.

Here's my recent post on 2011's key moments in collaboration software, and trends for 2012 from behind the scenes:
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
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