Enterprise Social Networking

What is enterprise social networking?

Enterprise social networking facilitates the relationships between people with similar business interests and/or activities through the use of online social networks, much like the collaborative approach of the wireframing software Pidoco. This is typically done by employing enterprise social software: software that is used in business/commercial contexts. Enterprise social networking often modifies the software platforms and corporate intranets of larger companies to organize collaboration and communication among users. Additionally, extant social networking sites are employed by those with specific business interests to give visibility to their enterprise. For example, a company that creates a fan page on the website Facebook is utilizing a form of enterprise social networking by creating a space for users to gather and exchange information through the structure of a larger, external social networking site.

The enterprise social networking trend

One of the major trends in enterprise social networking is the use of enterprise social software by companies to create in-company networks that promote collaboration among stakeholders.

Moreover, many companies are investing capital in training their employees to become more proficient in cloud computing and SaaS, since these technologies have become the driving force behind many social networks and, by extension, enterprise social networks. Enterprise social networks are being used by employees to share tips, ideas, and information in a quick and engaging manner. It is the hope of many companies that enterprise social networks will increase efficiency, competiveness, and the flow of creativity. Much the same trend has been observable in the increasing use of collaborative software solutions in various fields, from office applications like Google Docs to wireframing and UI prototyping to file sharing and more.

Problems with enterprise social networking

The enterprise social networking phenomenon is spreading like wildfire, and as with all fires, naturally there is potential for burn damage when using this approach. Some of the problems that are currently associated with enterprise social networking include:

Too much transparency: Social networks are hard to monitor and control and the spread of sensitive company information may be a little too transparent for professional comfort.
Lack of familiarity with social networks: While in the future this will likely be an obsolete point, the fact remains that many employees are unfamiliar with the social networking concept or process, and many might even find it distasteful to use in the work place. One way to make new users quickly familiar with social networks is the usability of the system, which can be optimized and tailored using prototyping or wireframing techniques during the early phases of the deployment process.
Lack of Adoption: Just because a company is employing an enterprise social networking strategy it does not mean employees will use it. The design of the user interface can be one barrier to adoption if it is not tailored to user needs. This can become tricky if a company has made a great monetary investment in the technology. The dilemma becomes how to enforce its use without seeming tyrannical, particularly because there is a great amount of subjectivity regarding what individuals feel is an appropriate amount of time to spend using social networks. A good way to foster adoption is to provide user interfaces that enterprise users can relate to. Usability testing during early implementation phases utilizing wireframes or UI prototypes can become a critical success factor.

Why is enterprise social networking ultimately important to the future?

Enterprise social networking is important because it nurtures business collaboration and creativity within the technological context that now permeates nearly every aspect of human interaction. The way we communicate, the way we collaborate, and the way we relate to each other is so entrenched in the technological sphere that it has become increasingly necessary for the business/professional aspect of life to align itself with a social networking phenomenon that, at first glance, seemed to arise purely for pleasure. Making social networking a productive aspect of the professional world provides an example of how technology manages to seamlessly integrate all aspects of our lives with the click of a button. Whether or not this a good thing is an entirely different question, but the reality is that technology is the world we live in.