Facebook and Twitter rule the enterprise, too

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. Credit: IDGNS

With all the talk about enterprise social platforms, you might think SharePoint, Yammer, Chatter, and Jive top the list of popular collaboration tools at work.

You’d be wrong.

The two biggest consumer social networks, Facebook and Twitter, are still on top in the enterprise by a wide margin. That’s according to a recent Avanade survey that queried 1,000 business and IT leaders and 4,000 employees. Avanade is the consulting and managed services company started by Accenture and Microsoft. It leans heavily on Microsoft technologies.

Among those who use social networking to collaborate at work, a whopping 74 percent said they use Facebook. In second place is Twitter, which 51 percent said they use for work collaboration, followed by LinkedIn with 45 percent.

The first real enterprise social app to make the cut in the survey is Microsoft’s SharePoint, with 39 percent of social networking workers using it, followed by IBM Connections at 17 percent, and Salesforce’s Chatter at 12 percent.

Consumerization clearly brought social networking into the work place. The question now is, will those consumer services remain dominant in the enterprise or will – and should -- the business-focused services take over?

While there are loads of services that started out as consumer services but make sense in the enterprise – think Dropbox and Evernote – Facebook and Twitter really aren’t the best tools for the job when it comes to social collaboration. The enterprise products are designed to make it easy and safe to share internal documents, work in groups, track work that’s been done, and communicate. They tend to have a lot more bells and whistles designed with business in mind.

"Companies are seeing a number of issues with these consumer-based technologies in the enterprise. They are limiting in their capabilities for true enterprise functionality so I believe customers are ready to take the next step and tie social into high value business processes which you cannot do with consumer based tools," said Ken Vassallo, director for software and cloud services in Avanade's collaboration group.

According to the Avanade survey, the business-focused services are indeed primed to win customers. IT and business leaders who have already adopted social networking tools but want to use more social networking technologies said that in the next year they plan to roll out the more enterprise-focused apps.

“While Facebook tops the list of social collaboration tools used today, decision makers report concrete plans to invest in technologies specifically designed for enterprise collaboration in the next 12 months,” according to the report.

Twenty-three percent said they plan to start using SharePoint and the same number said they’ll use Chatter. Facebook is at the bottom of the list of technologies the decision makers planned to adopt in the next year.

Still, a big challenge for enterprises is deploying an enterprise social platform and then encouraging employees to use them. People that use Facebook, Twitter, and other consumer services at work likely do so naturally. They use those products personally and figure that they’ll be useful at work too.

But social collaboration tools implemented by an IT department tend to feel optional for workers, unlike, say, email. That means the services will have to work really nicely and IT has to make sure that workers know about them and know how to use them.

That's not a huge stretch, Vassallo said. "If employees have tools that are attached to the processes they do every day and integrated into their infrastructure, then those tools will be used by default," he said. "Facebook and Twitter maybe be easy to access, but as you see from our research, they are limited in what they can do."

Sufficient training helps get workers to try out new technologies, like social networking tools. “Communicate and then communicate more. Training, user education, and change management is just as – if not more – crucial than the technology deployment,” he said.

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