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Business Social Networking Upside-Downside

We're at the early stages of adoption and in the process of identifying key challenges

Social media tools are entering the workplace, either by thoughtful intent or purely by accident. To date, for those organizations that actually have a plan of action, most tend to focus more on "damage containment" policies for their employees.

Is a protection-centric strategy the prudent approach for concerned -- but otherwise uninformed -- business leaders, or is it shortsighted thinking that undervalues the upside opportunity?

Cisco released the results of a third-party global market study designed to assess how organizations use consumer social networking tools to collaborate externally.

The use of these tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, are connecting organizations with their external stakeholders. On the upside, the tools connect people and information, establish potential new routes to market, and enhance customer intimacy and brand awareness.

According to the third-party researcher, the study findings indicate that we're at the early stages of adoption and in the process of identifying key challenges -- such as the need for increased governance and IT involvement.

Market Study Highlights
Of the organizations interviewed, 75 percent identified social networks as the consumer-based social media tools they primarily use, while roughly 50 percent of the group also identified extensive use of microblogging.

Social networking tools are spreading into core business areas, including marketing, human relations, and customer service. Within marketing and communications, these tools have already become an integral part of early-adopter initiatives.

Small and medium-sized businesses are actively using social networking channels to generate sales leads, but this remains a growth opportunity for larger companies.

Only one in seven of the companies that participated in the research noted a formal process associated with adopting consumer-based social networking tools for business purposes.

Only one in five participants identified any policies in place concerning the use of consumer-based social networking in the enterprise. Within the respondent base, social networking governance typically involves more stakeholders than standard corporate initiatives.

Due to the unstructured nature of social networking, companies continue to struggle with policy creation and adoption, as copying an established governance process from other more structured areas often doesn't work for social networking.

Only one in 10 respondents noted direct IT involvement in externally facing social networking initiatives. Although IT typically isn’t involved as a primary decision maker, respondents did recognize the need for these tools to scale and properly integrate with existing business processes to reap maximum benefits.

The new study is based on extensive interviews with 105 participants representing 97 organizations in 20 countries around the globe. Conducted between April and September 2009, the research was carried out by leading business schools in the United States and Europe.

More Stories By David H Deans

David H. Deans is the Managing Director at the GeoActive Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in the Technology, Media and Telecom sectors.

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