Enterprise Social Software: Look Before You Leap

Just because everyone's "going social" doesn't mean you and your business have to blindly follow the masses.

"Who in the world isn't on Facebook?"

It's one of those webified questions that might seem more like link-bait hyperbole than legitimate fodder for discussion.

The question was, in fact, raised by CNN.com's Doug Gross a little while back, on the news that Facebook had reached 500 million users across the globe. You should know that 309 million people call the good ole USofA home, as Gross points out. So, on the surface, it's a legitimate question.

"With grandmas aboard," the article notes, "who in the world hasn't already signed up for Facebook?"

Though I'm a proud late adopter of technology, the "grandma" comparison stings a bit, because I'm one of those people in the apparent minority: I don't have a Facebook account. (Although, "minority" is a relative, since there are, give or take, 6.5 billion others just like me on this planet who are not on Facebook. But I digress.)

I have felt a lot of pressure to join Facebook. I've gotten to know it a bit (how can anyone not?) when I've trouble-shooted my wife's page from time to time. She has called me a "Two-Face-Booker," since I'm always cross-examining her about our family and friends' latest exploits on FB or looking over her shoulder while she's reading an FB update—all the while proclaiming myself holier-than-thou.

So why don't I have a FB account? I won't bore you with the self-righteous "I'm too busy / important / cynical / privacy-conscious" rhetoric, because that's not entirely the case.

The real reason is this: Facebook does not help me do my job better. And if I'm going to add another consumer-focused social application to the already overwhelming list of apps I use, then it must help me work better and faster.

I think that's a thought execs should keep in mind as they stare at the "social business apps" hype train that's barreling down on their corporate HQs right now: Does this app allow our workers to better execute their jobs, which, in turn, makes the company more efficient and profitable?

My experience with Twitter offers an instructive case: For years I was an ardent non-believer in the Twibe of Twitter followers. Now? I'm a full-blown convert ready to move out to the Bay Area and pledge my wife and family to whatever Jack and Evan tell me to do.

Why? Because I finally saw how it could help me do my job better: I could easily connect with relevant sources, tap into and become involved in issues formerly not known to me, and expand my own reach into enterprise technology. In other words: There was serious value there.

In my own experiences and talking to people with similar roles, I haven't found that to be the case with Facebook. Yet.

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