Social media is on fire, so why are organisations so cool about cashing in on its potential, asks the Naked CIO.

Until recently I had been sceptical about social networking and the benefits of the technology to business operations – beyond providing the obvious links to consumers and creating a communication system between customers and the enterprise.

But over the past few weeks I have been thinking about developing existing social networks to make a business communications portal.

Most companies already have intranets or portals but in most cases these provide a one-directional flow of information to employees. Some intranets are more geared to collaboration, yet perhaps the next step is to define companies as social groups, including posts and integrating with applications, ticketing systems and email to provide a Facebook-like ability to view aspects of the business.

Better informed employees
Coordinating and configuring such a network might seem daunting, but really the recipe already exists. Creating social units based on teams, geography, business units and skillsets is a good way to share information and would create a better informed group of employees. Although I don’t know of any, I am sure to some extent this approach has already been adopted in some companies.

Businesses are made up of social and collaborative units and, more importantly, rely on effective delivery of information and notification to optimise productivity. The question then is whether Facebook or another social site could be retrofitted to apply specifically to business without affecting company privacy and still be effective.

Facebook newsfeed

Firms complain about ineffective collaboration software, yet ignore Facebook
(Photo credit: Facebook)

To what extent businesses could take advantage of this platform would largely be a question of their specific circumstances but, in general, linking business systems such as project management, reporting, ticketing and customer tracking to create alerts and posts would really help keep staff informed of timings, schedules, risk and issues affecting specific units.

It might also allow for the engineering of ideas and create a free-form thought process that could really benefit a modern era and structured business in which opinions and ideas are valued.

Privacy and data security issues
I like the idea but the big question is whether you could segregate this information from the outside world and be sure the privacy of your company’s data remains intact. Perhaps the only way to meet that requirement would be to develop your own social network.

Although the development would be costly, it would also take time to get your employees using it to the extent that they would need to. With existing interfaces such as those on Facebook, adoption could be seamless and usability would not be a concern.

The bottom line is that as social networks proliferate, businesses should start adopting a strategy to exploit the power of the technology, not only to communicate to its customers but also as a means of developing internal communication and collaboration.

We whine about not having collaboration tools that work effectively in the workplace, yet we ignore one of the most fertile collaboration tools in the world today – that one with 500 million friends.

Notwithstanding the issues in privacy and confidentiality, I know I am going to start to think about how this runaway technology can be applied in our company. Perhaps you should as well.