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August 01, 2011

Enterprise Social Media: It's Here, It's Now

This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of infoTECH Spotlight.

“Moving forward, the next generation of social media companies must push beyond focus on social networking and add real, unique value to the enterprise,” wrote Dr. Luosheng Peng, GageIn, concluding that, “Time is on the side of the social enterprise market, as we watch younger generations join the workforce seeking to apply their knowledge of social media to business challenges across the enterprise.”

He is right on the first count. As for the second, I would argue the time is now.

Having spent a day at Enterprise 2.0 in Boston, I can say without reservation that enterprise social media is on its way into the mainstream – the big question is whether to mirror Facebook’s (News - Alert) look or not. Indeed, social media is a definitive part of business culture already and, whether in the form of standalone applications or integrated into other communications capabilities, many of the companies at the show are on the right track.

Blogtronics – Has a very Facebook-like interface for its enterprise social media platform, because founder and CEO Vassil Mladjov says that’s what their customers have asked for, so why confuse them with something different?  What he believes is their biggest differentiator is the “Like” button. “We call it an ego button – Facebook has it, we have it, but Microsoft, Cisco, and IBM (News - Alert) don’t have it.”

Infosys – It’s Engage platform is another version of the Facebook for the enterprise phenomenon, built around Jive, providing all the common social media functions, including profile, news, video, communities, useful links, knowledge management, employee directory, and more – very similar to what you might find on the corporate Intranet.  Delivered via the SaaS (News - Alert) model, Engage offers a collaborative experience that is much deeper than mere networking, adding knowledge management, document collaboration, contribution and critique. “Facebook for the enterprise is only the beginning,” says Raj Jayaraman, biz dev manager. “Wait until users start experiencing apps, like ones for new employee onboarding. The idea is to use social media to drive business processes.”

Double Dutch – Offers a suite of seven mobile social enterprise apps that cross business lines to drive structured updates that leverage activities that are taking place in the consumer space. But, CEO and co-founder Lawrence Coburn says, despite borrowing the concept of status updates, Double Dutch is really the anti-Facebook for the enterprise. In fact, where social media sites look for extended engagement, Coburn says, in the case of his sales app, the idea is to get reps in and out of the app in seven seconds so they can get back to performing their jobs. Double Dutch sees the phone as a senor that knows what is going on and seeks to leverage that knowledge to make the social updating process simple.

My favorite Double Dutch feature, though, is its events app, which can easily replace bulky and costly paper conference guides while adding an interactive – and almost entertaining – social element to the conference experience, including not only tracking meetings and networking, but adding awards or badges that can be used to promote certain activities, reward certain activities with admission to events or entry into drawings, much more. Incorporate a mobile barcode reader and the possibilities are almost limitless.

Harmon.ie – is all about collaboration and making SharePoint easy. The idea, according to Dave Lavenda, vice president of marketing and product management, is “one window, single context without changing user behavior.” As an Outlook sidebar, it allows users to easily find documents and other users, see changes and version histories, and comment on revisions, as well as allowing drag and drop creation of SharePoint links into emails, eliminating the need for attachments (and multiple versions of the same document floating through cyberspace).  It’s quite a handy and easy to use product for SharePoint users, but where I disagree with Lavenda is in his assessment that people are not interested in doing work in a Facebook- or Twitter-like environment, but would rather do everything in email. While that may have been true even two years ago, social media is quickly becoming the medium of choice.

Socialspring – a suite of nine social media elements mirroring what is happening in the consumer world but in the business context so as to provide security and customization required. Element of the product include: Answer (enterprise Quora), Stream (enterprise Twitter), Connect (enterprise Facebook), Links (private label URL shortener, even allowing creation of links for individual recipients), Chat, Video (enterprise YouTube (News - Alert)), Ideas (similar to Spigit, which was also in attendance at the show), Skills (indexes and identifies subject matter experts), App Market (allows third-party apps to be used and rated). Socialspring has effectively taken all the available enterprise social media features and rolled them into one product, including the ability to integrate a VoIP platform of choice, something others have yet to be able to accommodate. “Jive built and predicted need,” co-founder Yoshi Maisami told me. “Socialspring built suite based on demand.”

These companies are only a sampling of what is available in the way of enterprise social media, but they are a good representation of the different approaches that many have taken and reflective of the choice available to enterprises today. Indeed, there is no need to wait to bring enterprise social media to your business.


Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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