Consumer social networks NSFW?

Summary:Businesses need to invest in an enterprise social network as existing consumer-targeted services are viewed as not safe for work, say market players who offer tips on managing corporate social networks.

Consumer-oriented social networking sites are showing enterprises how to better collaborate, but the security of these sites may not be adequate enough for businesses, according to market players.

Jeremy Cooper, regional vice president for marketing at Salesforce.com Asia-Pacific, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview that enterprises have struggled for decades to include tools with collaboration capabilities. "If you take a look at a lot of the tools that enterprises use today, like [IBM] Lotus Notes and Microsoft Sharepoint and so on, as good as they were [when] initially introduced into the market, they have sort of fallen behind."

Pointing to the popularity and large following of Facebook and Twitter, Cooper noted that consumer-oriented social networks have shown organizations the potential for collaboration. Salesforce's own enterprise social networking and collaboration platform, Chatter, borrowed Facebook and Twitter features, he added.

"The question becomes: Why don't enterprises just use Facebook?" said Cooper. "[Compared to Facebook], the biggest difference with Chatter is what we've effectively done is provide an enterprise application which looks, feels and operates like Facebook but we've made it private, secure and trusted because it exists inside the firewall of the company."

Having data within the firewall is important, concurred Chetan Yardi, IBM's WebSphere Portal executive for the Asia-Pacific. He explained: "In consumer networks, the responsibility of the data is with the user."

"In an enterprise network, companies will want to ensure they have a system that promotes creation and participation in a network without compromising on security," he added. "You don't want an employee discussing internal business issues on external networks."

In March, Facebook faced criticism for automatically sharing user data with pre-approved third-party sites. A lawyer noted in a follow-up ZDNet Asia report that organizations need to exercise caution when working with Facebook due to its constant change of its privacy policy's terms and conditions.

However, organizations should not avoid consumer social networks entirely, said Yardi. Businesses ought to tap into such sites for insight into what customers are saying about their products and services, he pointed out, adding that the information can then be used to drive revenue and improve customer satisfaction.

Top tips for managing an enterprise social network
While social networking use is associated with the younger demographic, Yardi believes that bringing in such a technology can also benefit companies with an older workforce.

The challenge for organizations in mature markets with an ageing workforce is to capture employees' knowledge and skills before their retirement, he said. With social networking technology, organizations will have a platform which facilitates the process naturally and not in a top-down system.

Yardi and Cuneyt Uysal, product manager for Open Text Asia-Pacific and Japan, offered the following four tips for managing an enterprise social network:

1. Get strong management support
According to Uysal, the inclusion of social networking technology is often a culture shift for organizations. As with any project, executive buy-in is the most important tool, he noted.

Not only should it be stated in employee communications, conspicuous use of the corporate social networking engine by top management also sets the tone for the organization.

2. Get people on board
Younger members of the workforce, whose use of such tools appear to be second nature, are great champions and enablers for driving adoption, said Uysal. If there are no suitable in-house resources, businesses should seek out external consultants to help drive change, he added.

3. Set the rules of participation
Companies, IBM's Yardi pointed out, need to set the dos and don'ts such as speaking in first person, not picking fights, respecting the opinion of others, drawing boundaries and sticking to professional content.

4. Define long-term objectives and metrics
In order to define strategy, businesses need to know what they are trying to achieve and the metrics to measure the success, said Uysal. Organizations should be able to quantify and track results through analyzing Web site clicks as well as other engagement principles such as an individual's influence.

Tangible goals should be set, instead of vague ones such as "improving employee productivity", he added. Examples of tangible goals include:

 

  • To reduce the time spent in e-mail.
  • To reduce the amount of time spent searching for documents on the corporate intranet.
  • To accelerate coming to a consensus on how to respond to a public relations issue.
  • To speed up the process for identifying an expert within the vast global organization.

Topics: Security, Browser, CXO, Hardware, IT Employment, Mobility, SMBs, Social Enterprise

About

The only journalist in the team without a Western name, Yun Qing hails from the mountainy Malaysian state, Sabah. She currently covers the hardware and networking beats, as well as everything else that falls into her lap, at ZDNet Asia. Her RSS feed includes tech news sites and most of the Cheezburger network. She is also a cheapskate mas... Full Bio

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