by Thomas Wailgum

Enterprise Social Software: Look Before You Leap

Sep 02, 2010
Enterprise Applications

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’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.

Enterprises should look—and look again—before they leap into “socializing” their corporate processes, applications and back-end systems.

Just because some vendor’s social app is “Facebook-like” doesn’t mean it’s necessarily worth the investment.

That is not to say, of course, that all social business applications should be avoided. Hardly. There are many, many companies that are enjoying success with a range of social apps out there: Hayes Knight, Yum! Brands, Philips and Sony, just to name a few.

But the larger point is that just because everyone’s “going social” doesn’t mean you and your business have to, too. For many of us, life does indeed go on without a Facebook account.

Thomas Wailgum covers Enterprise Software, Data Management and Personal Productivity Apps for Follow Thomas on Twitter @twailgum. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Thomas at