Tim Buckley Owen Social networking for business ‘hyped up’
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By Tim Buckley Owen

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As 2008 dawns, chances are that many corporate information professionals are resolving this is the year when they will really get to grips with social networking. It’s certainly getting easier, as a recent report from Gartner Consulting explains. Last December LinkedIn, the social networking site for business professionals, announced that it was adding a facility that allowed third-party developers to build modules or widgets that integrated into LinkedIn itself, plus a programming interface for developers that let external sites access LinkedIn data. As Gartner’s analyst Ray Valdes explained http://digbig.com/4wega a contest has emerged over the past year among vendors, led by Facebook, racing to transform social networking sites into platforms for social solutions. But the announcement, with all it implies for infopros, comes with a health warning. Gartner’s autumn report, Facebook and the Emerging Social Platform Wars http://digbig.com/4wegb ($495 for 11 pages, be warned), was followed last month by another which suggested that the hype didn't necessarily mean social networking was a mature enough technology to make it a critical business requirement. Three Potential Pitfalls of Corporate Social Networking, by Gartner’s Brian Prentice ($195 for four pages this time) http://digbig.com/4wegc warns that investing in social networking solutions from enterprise vendors is no guarantee that users will embrace the technology. Commenting on the report on the CNET News web site http://www.news.com/2100-1032_3-6223009.html Tim Ferguson reiterates Gartner’s view that there’s little evidence social networking will be as beneficial for businesses as other web-based communications technology, such as instant messaging. The value of social networking technology comes from content rather than the product itself, Gartner believes, and it recommends that IT departments think very carefully before committing to expensive ‘social-networking white elephants’. We shouldn’t really be surprised at this; global accountancy firm KPMG was urging similar caution as long ago as last July. In Enterprise 2.0: Fad or Future? The Business Role for Social Software Platforms http://digbig.com/4wegd Gary Matuszak, KPMG’s global chair, information, communications & entertainment, cited some serious challenges to its successful adoption – and not always the ones you might expect. ‘While security is often cited as a key concern, another real risk is not that wikis or blogs will reveal too much information, but rather too little,’ Matuszak suggests. ‘Social networking requires a high volume of active participants and regular postings,’ he continues. ‘Many wikis and blogs in the wider world fail due to lack of interest.’ ‘A politically savvy employee might want to hold back before indulging in something that may prove to be short-lived in popularity and acceptability but long-lived in the corporate database,’ he wisely concludes. So... required reading for infopros, perhaps – and, in contrast to the Gartner reports, KPMG’s is free to download.

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