Why is social networking struggling in the enterprise?

Knowledge sharing and knowledge management in the holy grail in the enterprise and business-focussed social networking was supposed to be the way forward, but there are obstacles.

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Organisations are struggling to replicate consumer social networks like Facebook and Twitter for internal communications and employee collaboration, according to a Burton Group report.

Why is social networking struggling in the enterprise? The conclusions of the report, Social networking in the enterprise, was based on interviews with 21 enterprises in a variety of industries, including consumer goods, finance, technology and utilities.

The report comes as traditional and start-up suppliers are promoting social applications similar in design to Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia, but tailored for business use.

The Enteprise 2.0 market includes vendors that have started whole businesses around social software, such as Socialtext, Jive, and Six Apart, as well as old players like IBM and Microsoft that have added social features into their product lines with Lotus Connections and SharePoint, respectively.

But the products available may be less of a problem for enterprise social networking adoption than culture , says Mike Gotta, a principal analyst at Burton Group.

Older workers might not feel the same predisposition to the technologies in the enterprise (even though they're gravitating towards them in the consumer space, especially with Facebook).

Part of their hesitation might be a lack of clarity by their companies in defining the purpose of an enterprise social network. Many companies have used them to help people share their expertise and connect with others, especially in large, geographically dispersed organisations.

"Some vendors are saying employees will go in and naturally fill these enterprise social networking profiles out, but I don't think that's necessarily true," Gotta says. "If you're an employee, you have questions. Why should you maintain it? What are you going to do with it? Those questions still need to answered."

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