When the folks at travel company Sabre Holdings saw how\n people were using their new Bambora travel advisor, it got them\n to thinking.\n Related on CIO.com\n \n Lockheed Martin Shows Off Internal Social Software Platform\n \n Four Ways Wachovia Justified Wikis, Blogs and Other Social Networks\n \n Enterprise 2.0: Three Thoughts on the State of Social Software in Business\n \n Three Things the CIA Learned About Implementing an Enterprise Wiki\n Bambora is a simple social network for\n travelers, one of many products Sabre Holdings has developed\n for the travel industry. It uses a basic question-and-answer\n interface, so travelers can submit questions like\n \u201cWhat\u2019s a good hotel on Mykonos?\u201d to the\n community of members for answers. Answers are captured to a\n searchable database for posterity.Sabre built Bambora to be a public-facing product, but\n managers immediately saw its utility within the company. As\n Sabre has evolved and diversified over the last few years, its\n employee base has become fragmented across the world. This has\n challenged Sabre to manage projects and sustain teamwork among\n its 9,000 employees. It had become difficult even to keep track\n of which skills existed within the far-flung organization.From Bambora, SabreTown was born. The internal social\n network is now widely used by Sabre Holdings employees to find\n expertise that would otherwise have been buried within the\n organization. Questions entered into SabreTown are processed by\n a relevance engine and built into employees\u2019 personal\n profiles. Sabre is effectively creating a massive knowledge\n base that employees willingly populate with their own\n information.\u201cThis is an online hallway,\u201d says Al Comeaux,\n senior vice president of corporate communications at the travel\n firm. \u201cIt\u2019s an opportunity to build a\n culture.\u201dIt\u2019s also a chance to capture and preserve corporate\n knowledge. That\u2019s becoming an increasingly pressing\n concern in U.S. companies. The ratio of U.S. citizens under the age of 65 to those over 65 is expected to decline from more\n than 7:1 today to about 4:1 by 2030. Businesses are\n scrambling to preserve expertise that can be passed along to\n the next generation of employees. (See How to Build Your Own Wikipedia\n and Three Things the CIA Learned About Implementing an Enterprise Wiki.)That has IT and human resource managers looking to the\n Internet for solutions. And like so many recent Internet\n trends, the phenomenon called Web 2.0 or social media is\n finding acceptance in consumer markets first before working its\n way inside the corporate firewall.Nearly everyone is familiar with the stunning success of\n social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, which together\n count nearly 100 million members. Now big businesses are\n adapting public services to their own needs. Forrester Research estimates that the\n market for internal social media applications will reach\n $4.6 billion by 2013.Enterprises are finding a variety of innovative uses for\n social media:\u2022 IBM has an internal podcast library of\n more than 12,000 files with over 100,000 subscribers.\n Podcasts have cut costs and improved the quality of internal\n communications among IBM's 400,000-person workforce, 40% of\n whom do not work in an office.\u2022 Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Corp. uses an internal wiki called\n Pfizerpedia to capture knowledge about its products and\n processes. It's now building out a social network similar to\n Facebook inside the firewall, as Computerworld has\n reported.\u2022 Wachovia is using an internal social network to bind together its far-flung\n employee base and to attract the next generation of workers,\n who increasingly expect to have such services at their\n fingertips.Some companies are taking a hybrid approach by building\n private communities of customers for use in market research and\n even product development. Hilton Hotels Corp. has engaged with\n several hundred frequent travelers in just such a community\n for about two years. Market researchers bounce ideas off the\n group, solicit suggestions for new services and even tap the\n members for competitive insight, according to Christine\n Hight, Hilton Family\u2019s director of customer research.\n The initiative has become a core part of the company\u2019s\n market research efforts.Enterprise pioneers say the secret to success in social\n media is to discard assumptions about how tools should be used\n and to let users experiment. Sabre Holdings executives knew\n that if the company restricted the use of SabreTown strictly to\n business applications, adoption would be slow. The company\n instead chose to allow employees to adopt the tool for personal\n use as well as for business advice, leading to rapid adoption,\n Comeaux says.The first application of podcast within IBM was a battle of\n the bands, according to George Faulkner, who heads up the\n company's internal podcasting effort. Early\n experiments piqued employee interest and staffers quickly\n figured out how to apply the technology to their business\n needs. \u201cThis wasn't about knowledge-sharing,\u201d\n Faulkner says. \u201cIt was about community-building."Paul Gillin, a veteran technology writer\n and speaker, is the author of \u201cThe New\n Influencers,\u201d about the changes in markets driven by\n online publishers. His new book, \u201cSecrets of Social\n Media Marketing,\u201d is due out in the fall of\n 2008.