But those who've heard similar predictions about other technologies are a bit more skeptical. "There's no doubt consumers are embracing social networks to communicate and network with each other," says independent tech analyst Chris Selland. "But it's highly questionable whether enterprise customers will gain much of anything from their rush to 'socialize' their infrastructures."
In fact, they could easily lose more than they gain, notes ICA's Freschman. He believes enterprises may be wary of social networks because of the ease with which employees could inadvertently spill important information. "People on Facebook and other social networks share everything about what they're doing," says Freschman. "A technologist at a company will say he's traveling to such and such a place to meet with so and so at another company. That's too much information. Before they know it, their scientists are talking to the competition and trade secrets are leaking out."
With enterprise social media, the aspect that's truly overhyped is the concept of collaboration, notes Criterion's Hockenberry. Bringing diverse groups of people into a Web setting is not how innovation typically happens, he adds. "Social networks like Facebook are the biggest coffee klatch on earth," says Hockenberry. "They're nice for chatting, but we really haven't figured out the business implementation for them. Just adopting a new technology does not create innovation for you."
Can enterprise social media deliver on all its many promises? History tells us no. But check back with us in a few years and we'll let you know for sure.
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