Setting the record straight on internal/external social networks

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A lot of attention and money have been thrown at what many are calling the “social business” or social enterprise sector, involving internal-facing sites developed to provide better communication and collaboration within a company. But isn't social business about providing a “Facebook-like experience” for a company's employees and stakeholders? There are a lot of myths for marketers to consider, so it's useful to take a step back and clear the air:
  • Social business solutions are fundamentally changing how companies communicate, both internally and externally. This is true, but it's not a foregone conclusion. With powerful collaboration tools, these services can enable in-house teams (like marketing) to work together to develop unified documents and collateral, then formulate marketing and communication programs to be shared externally. Beyond this, they can enable companywide collaboration—a considerable value for projects requiring real-time input from multiple departments—to provide easy-access forums for team members to effectively partner on projects large and small.
  • There's no going back—social business solutions are here to stay, and companies that are not onboard are missing out. This is for the most part false. Though we'd like to think otherwise, the social business landscape is still a work in progress and some serious sorting remains to be done in the marketplace. How important is online collaboration to your organization, and how many employees or departments would benefit from a social solution? If your company is not yet built to a size where it matters, save your money. Otherwise, seek out a development partner with actual experience and client references, since there are so many new players in the field.
  • Every business needs a social site or solution. This is false. Typical of any emerging market, there tends to be an artificial sense of importance and urgency in the social business landscape. While social solutions can be incredibly valuable, they aren't for everyone. If someone approaches you and says otherwise before asking any specific questions about your business, run.
  • Larger enterprises need social solutions more frequently than small businesses. This is true. While there are plenty of small businesses benefiting from improved efficiencies associated with social sites, companies with larger, more diversified employee bases tend to have the greatest need for improved collaboration and communication tools. Some companies are developing grandiose products and marketing campaigns that allow virtually all small businesses to jump on the social bandwagon, so buyers should beware.
As with any booming segment, the social business space has a lot of room for growth and further definition. For companies and marketers, it is important to assess whether and how social business might be right for them. Kevin Conroy is president of Blue Rooster (, an interactive technology consulting firm. He can be reached at [email protected]
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