Jul 31 2014

What's Next for Enterprise Social Media Software?

The growth of social enterprise software hasn’t kept pace with its consumer cousins, but that may not be such a bad thing after all.

The promise was great at one point: Social media use had exploded on the consumer side, and the thought was that we’d see a parallel adoption on the enterprise side. If social media platforms could make it possible to stoke revolution in the Middle East or help cat videos go viral, imagine what could be unleashed if the powers of social were put to use in the enterprise?

Several tools and companies sprang up to meet the needs of the social enterprise, but the truth is that the hype has not yet matched the reality.

The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal recently posted an article that called social media adoption at work a “slower affair,” among other things:

Adoption of social media for the enterprise generally doesn’t share the viral properties of Facebook, Twitter Inc., or business-oriented LinkedIn Corp. In retrospect, that probably shouldn’t be too surprising, although initial forecasts for the social enterprise clearly had a bit of stardust baked into them. “The growth of the enterprise social software market certainly hasn’t been what it was initially hyped. The market is maturing amid consolidation and integration,” Forrester Inc. analyst Philipp Karcher says. “However, we see improving adoption every year as enterprise social becomes a standard component in the employee toolkit.”

Part of the reasoning behind the slow growth of social enterprise tools and software might be linked to the fact that the consumer versions are enough. As with their smartphones, people already use their social media accounts for work and personal reasons. We see salespeople flourishing by spreading their social wings, and recruiters are turning to these platforms to find qualified candidates.

Then again, those instances cited work for people whose job functions are external. But what about the benefits of social collaboration for internal company discussions? According to the WSJ, the companies that do adopt enterprise social media software quickly see the rewards:

The collaborative benefits of social platforms are clear enough to Trent Gavazzi, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Availity LLC, a health claims clearinghouse with 700 employees. They use Microsoft’s Yammer to share information and collaborate on projects. The sales and service team also uses Salesforce.com Inc.’s Chatter to discuss leads and exchange other information about accounts.


From a corporate culture perspective, Mr. Gavazzi sees Yammer as an important socialization tool to “get people out of their [email] inboxes” and share more information with colleagues who they normally wouldn’t connect with via email due to office politics. For example, the CEO can use Yammer to comment on a public post about a company picnic. “It allows a direct conversation between folks [who] would not necessarily talk to each other,” said Mr. Gavazzi. “Its [use has] grown on its own.” He also says it reduces the common email problem of accidentally excluding members of a team or group on a thread that requires collaboration.

So perhaps the “problem” isn’t really with social enterprise software. Rather, we should adjust our expectations for its adoption in the workplace to align with business objectives and goals and not with the growth of consumer platforms, which are on a completely different track.

Anatoliy Babiy/ThinkStock

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