How Social Networks Bloom in the Enterprise

Council-member CIOs rely on employee word of mouth, user direction and new attitudes on control to drive Web. 2.0 momentum.

Rick Meuser, Director, IT, Silgan Plastics

Use word of mouth

We snuck social networking into our enterprise, rolling out Microsoft Office Communicator to all 1,100 employees without fanfare to see who would pick it up. It certainly helped that the product fully integrated with our e-mail, but it only took a few months for almost half of our business users to embrace the technology for keeping in touch with their teams. Since they discovered the benefits on their own, people were enthusiastic about sharing their success, and those who weren't using it yet saw the advantages in daily use all around them.

Our IT group stepped forward then with official internal marketing and communication to leverage that momentum. We also took advantage of those who were driving that adoption to test the MS SharePoint MySites that will replace our intranet and make it easier to find experts spread across the country. Since these are the people who are familiar with public social networking sites, it was simple for them to set up their skill and responsibility profiles, and we're sure they will broadcast the benefits.

Drew Martin, Senior VP and CIO, Sony Electronics

Let users inform the experience

Sony employees are embracing social networking technologies across every working style and generation, but as a consumer products company, we knew it was important to bring these solutions to our customers as well. Our forays into the public Web 2.0 world, however, came with critical lessons.

We initially conceived our public blog to be a two-way means of communication, but we were quickly overwhelmed by comments voicing opinions and seeking answers about our products. We have fundamentally changed how we approach that space: The blog is now complimented with a community for users to interact with us or with each other. Interest in this from our business groups then drove us to choose a platform to create segment-specific communities.

It also became obvious that we are no longer in a world where if you build a terrific site, customers will come to you; now you have to fish where the fish are. For us, that means establishing a presence on everything from YouTube to Flickr, and even exploring the uses of virtual-world environments, which we're bringing to the commercial side with virtual trade shows.

Athelene Gieseman, CIO, Stinson Morrison Hecker

Learn how to relinquish control

Web 2.0 requires that you turn over the experience to the end user. That's not normal, nor is it comfortable, for IT departments. Even with confidentiality at top of mind, many of our attorneys were excited to use these tools for business. It was disconcerting to find that we were in the role of business "disablers" because of security or other concerns.

No matter how much we read about social networking, there is no way to know how solutions will or will not fit in your environment until you've gotten out there and used them. With Web 2.0, it's easy to do that. In addition, we plan to establish a task force to gather best practices from our people. We have found that some who have two Facebook accounts want to use pseudonyms for one, and we now need to decide whether—or under what circumstances—a pseudonym can be used for official firm communications. We're also looking at the possibilities demonstrated by a decision by one state's bar association to accept credits from a class taught in Second Life.

As CIOs, we all know there needs to be some level of control in a corporate environment, but these technologies are designed to thrive without central oversight. We must experience that to draw our own line without diminishing their benefit.

Meuser, Martin and Gieseman are each members of the CIO Executive Council, a global peer advisory service and professional association of more than 500 CIOs, founded by CIO magazine's publisher. To learn more visit


This story, "How Social Networks Bloom in the Enterprise" was originally published by CIO Executive Council.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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