Ditch the likes: Why enterprise social media is nothing like Facebook

The power of social networks such as Facebook is distorting businesses' perceptions about their own social collaboration efforts.
Written by Toby Wolpe, Contributor

Firms are so hung up on the Facebook model that they're applying trivial consumer metrics to enterprise social media and ending up wondering why it's not working.

In many cases, the misapplication of consumer-type metrics is leading them to misjudge the take-up and effectiveness of social tools, according to Tibco social-computing president Ram Menon.

"For too long have corporate enterprise social and knowledge management professionals used traditional consumer metrics and they've got to stop. Number of logins, number of posts, number of likes. It's kind of meaningless in a work environment," Menon said.

He said that despite the power of the Facebook-type approach, social media inside an organisation and outside in the consumer world differed in certain fundamental ways.

"One thing that Facebook has taught us to great effect is the whole concept of activity streams, which are a great way to bring disparate pieces together but more importantly a wonderful way to consume complex fragments of information very quickly," Menon said.

"In a work environment, 80 percent of the people are consumers and 20 percent are producers. You're going to have power users, you're going to have people who put out the IP and then you going to have people on the road or young employees who are just going to consume most of the time."

Social media effectiveness metrics

According to Menon, rather than using relatively superficial consumer metrics to try to come up with adoption numbers and measures of effectiveness, organisations should be devising their own approaches.

"Are you reducing cycle times? Are you able to find interesting parallels where work is getting faster. For example, one of our customer's onboarding of new employees went down from three months to six weeks. Mean time to resolution of customer complaints came down by days in a wholesale banking environment. These are the kind of things that say, 'Hey, these things are of tremendous value'," Menon said.

Another approach is to look at whether posts are breaking organisational barriers by generating interactions in different geographies and parts of the organisation.

Tibco, which produces the tibbr enterprise social network, earlier this week launched tibbr Meetings to integrate online conferences on WebEx, Skype and Google Hangouts into the tibbr stream on mobile and desktop clients. The tibbr suite is available via the cloud and as on-premise software.

Menon said the other big issue facing adoption of enterprise social media was fragmentation and organisations running multiple networks.

"The problem we have right now is social software could end up very much where ERP software has ended up: all these silos. You have the HR department, they're going to use HR software and they're going to go all social around that. You have the sales department going all social around that," he said.

"Most CEOs and global knowledge officers and CIOs just want a TV that plays all channels."

Enterprise social-media approaches

The problem is being made worse because three distinct approaches exist side by side in current enterprise social networks.

"One angle is the Yammer view of the world. Which is, 'Hey, people talk to each other and serendipity will bring great business value'," Menon said.

"Then you have the content folks, SharePoint, and various versions of them, Jive, all these companies masquerading as social software when they are really a J2EE application server app that has taxonomy for content. What they say is, 'It's all about content and the business value of having conversations about that document or documents'.

"Then you have the third bucket, the application companies: Salesforce, SAP: 'You live in my application. My application is your world, so all the conversations should be round the application'."

Menon said the three threads were all essential but shouldn't exist in isolation from one another.

"We believe all three need to happen. It's got to be people, it's got to be content, and it's got to be the business processes coming out of these applications — all coming to this ubiquitous wall and then making sure there is a layer on top that is secure, " he said.

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