Corporate America has exhibited the best and the worst of social media in the short-lived industry’s time. There have been edicts passed down that prohibit employees from using them at all. There have been instances where companies have given everyone free reign and stupidity prevailed. There have been firings and, as a result, lawsuits about what can or cannot be done around what employees say.
Needless to say, the list goes on. One trend that is emerging according to an article in the New York Times is the creation and implementation of private corporate social networks. In the last century we used to call them intranets but you know kids these days …… The Times reports
What would Facebook look like without photos of drunken nights out and tales of misbehaving cats? It might look a lot like the internal social network at the offices of Nikon Instruments.
The tone is decidedly businesslike, as employees exchange messages about customer orders, new products and closing deals. And the general rule is that “if you don’t want your company president to see it, don’t post it,” said John G. Bivona, a customer relations manager at Nikon Instruments, which makes microscopes.
As social networks increasingly dominate communications in private lives, businesses of all sizes — from tiny start-ups to midsize companies like Nikon to behemoths like Dell — are adopting them for the workplace. Although it is difficult to quantify how many companies use internal social networks, a number of corporate software companies have sensed the opportunity and offer various systems, some free to existing customers, others that charge a fee per user.
This is not a surprising trend. In fact, I’m not even sure we can say it’s a trend yet but it is something that makes sense. It appears that the market is there and it is likely to grow. There is competition bubbling up amongst companies to provide these services for both existing customers and standalone clients.
One of the biggest providers of corporate social networks is Salesforce.com, the online business software company based in San Francisco. It said 80,000 companies use its corporate social network, Chatter, up from around 10,000 when it was introduced a year ago. Yammer, a start-up and also based in San Francisco, said its service is used by more than 100,000 companies, up from around 80,000 a year ago.
SAP, Cisco Systems, Socialtext, Jive Software and SuccessFactors are also pushing their products. Last month, VMware joined the list when it acquired Socialcast, one of the earlier networking services.
Aside from the business of putting these private / internal social networks together the ultimate benefit to a company could be tremendous. Imagine a place where employees’ ‘socializing’ is around current projects, about moving things forward in the workplace and not about what color hairball your cat coughed up last night.
Just take a look at the last eight words of this description of how this type of internal social networking has helped Ceasars Entertainment.
One of the benefits of social networks for many employees is a decline in e-mail use. Instead of sending out mass mailings, workers post messages or collaborate on presentations within the service.
Of course, social networks have not replaced many of the existing tools for collaborating, like Microsoft SharePoint. Nor have meetings become obsolete.
Scott Lake, director of V.I.P. marketing at Caesars Entertainment, the casino colossus based in Las Vegas, said his team used Chatter to coordinate and promote events like Celine Dion concerts for the casino’s best customers. Online groups set up for each event help ensure that everyone involved has the most up-to-date information.
Questions and answers are visible to everyone in the group. Doing the same thing via e-mail would be cumbersome if not impossible.
“Before, we got on conference calls and hoped the information would be passed around,” Mr. Lake said. “Now, we have a lot fewer calls and meetings.”
Yea, you read that correctly. A lot fewer calls and meetings. While some may call this private corporate social networking, efficiency experts may be calling this nivana.
Do you use a corporate social network at your job? Have you experienced it in a positive way or has it just become another thing to do? Do you see the growth in this kind of service or is it just the flavor of the day?
Let us know in the comments.