As we examine the possibilities for business to leverage the medium of social networking we find numerous perspective that are limited to obvious silo opportunities.While there are certainly obvious benefits to use social networking for specific business functions the mediums functionality and feature capabilities have the potential to touch and enhance every business process and all relationships across all segments globally.Businesses are just discovering the systemic nature of the medium and the media continues to drive home the message within business circles. Jennifer LeClaire of TechNewsWorld
writes “The phenomenon of social networking for business purposes is a logical extension of personal networking. After all, businesses are merely people linked by common economic purpose, said Barry Kessel, managing director and chief client development officer at global marketing firm Wunderman.”
“A recent Pew Internet study lends credibility to the concept. Pew researchers report that more people are using the Internet to strengthen social ties that they maintain in the offline world.”
“Increased travel costs and a depressed economy are two factors driving the trend. Time being money, online social networking is also winning favor with time-stretched businesses. It costs less and takes less time to network online than in person, said Scott Allen, co-author of “The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online.”
“As more business happens online, it’s natural that the business dealings that lead up to the transactions would happen more online. We have a generation coming into the workforce now that have grown up with broadband. IM and SMS messaging are actually preferred over the phone by many of them,” Allen told TechNewsWorld.
A Productivity Threat or Tool?
Sally Whittle ZDNet.co.uk writes: “So, is social networking simply a productivity threat or can companies learn to live with Facebook and its ilk? “My gut instinct tells me that we’re going to end up with a Facebook for the enterprise, or Facebook in the enterprise,” said David Bradshaw, an analyst with Ovum. “There’s too much at stake for organizations not to start looking at bringing this stuff under their control.”
“For starters, companies are realizing that levels of communication are increasing on social-networking platforms — outside the control of the corporate IT department. In addition, companies have a lot to gain from social networking, according to some experts.”
“There are some pretty obvious benefits to using social-networking applications as a business tool, according to Graham Cluley, senior technical consultant with security firm Sophos. “It’s a great research and recruitment tool,” he said. “You can check people out, see what their career history is like, who they associate with, even what their conduct might be like outside the office.”
“However, Cluley said that the benefits of social networking could be taken a step further. “If you look at Facebook, it’s a platform, and you could easily develop applications to sit on top of that, to do virtually anything around collaboration,” he said. For example, firms might consider creating a messaging application that workers can log onto while on the road, or a quick reference guide for employees that pulls in links as part of news feed.”
“Social networking provides a ready-made knowledge-management platform, said Bradshaw. “In an increasingly competitive world, the most valuable asset companies have is their knowledge, and the one thing this type of platform lets you do is find people with the knowledge you need, and use those skills better in collaboration with other people.”
Looking from the Outside in
For businesses to maximize the opportunity of the medium of social networks they’ll need to gain a perspective from the outside in. What we mean is that thinking tends to be molded over time by ones view of their environment, their business rules and the mental models learned from experience. However, looking from the inside out can sometimes be limited by the paradigms of experience, the lack of outside knowledge and limited vantage points.
As the media reports more and more about innovative uses of social networks for business purposes the old mental models will be pushed from the outside in. The analyst, consultants and market makers will create the new paradigms which eventually will be adopted by businesses globally.
If the phenomenon of social networking for business purposes is a logical extension of personal networking then the collective individuals currently using networks will be those that create the new paradigms….until the next generation expands our thinking even more.
What say you?