Getting Down to Social Business


By Samuel Greengard

The buzz and excitement of social media appears to be wearing thin. Last February, Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project reported that 61 percent of Facebook users had decided to take a vacation from Facebook at one time or another— sometimes for several weeks or more. In addition, 20 percent of online adults who once visited Facebook no longer use the site.

Survey participants provided a number of reasons for reducing or eliminating their time on Facebook. These are the most common reasons: They were too busy to spend time at the site, a general lack of interest in the site, the absence of compelling content, and too much drama and gossip. In fact, the number of Facebook users is steadily declining. Expect Twitter and other social media sites to follow suit over the next few years.

But don't think that declining numbers and changing consumer attitudes spell the doom of social media within the enterprise. In fact, these changes might actually be good news for business and IT executives. As the aura of newness dissolves and the buzz over 140-character posts and pithy status updates dissipates, it's possible to gain a clearer view of how to best tap social media and design tools for maximum impact and performance.

Although public-facing social media—Facebook pages and Twitter feeds in particular— continue to garner a good deal of attention in the business world and beyond, it's clear that the real value revolves around internal collaboration and integration with enterprise systems that extend to partners and customers. Social business is a critical tool for the digital enterprise because it completely rewires the connection points for people, data, information and knowledge.

This situation shouldn't feel completely unfamiliar to business and IT leaders. Over the years, personal computers, Websites, unified communications, virtualization and cloud computing have all travelled along the same predictable arc. They were once cutting edge, now they're just there—enabling far better business capabilities.

The takeaway? IT leaders must adopt a process-focused and workflow-centric view of social media and business. It's not about emulating Facebook or Twitter and providing a place for an endless stream of status updates and feel-good tweets.

The goal, in the final analysis, is to make it much easier for people to do their work and build greater organizational intelligence.