No Jitter is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Social Media and Collaboration: Intersection or Disconnection?

The hot topics at VoiceCon this year were collaboration and social media--the latter especially fitting, given that the Enterprise 2.0 conference was taking place right next door. All the major communications vendors were talking about--and in some cases, like Siemens, even demo-ing-integration with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Many of the IT executives I spoke with in San Francisco, as well as recently at other events such as Frost & Sullivan's Growth, Leadership and Innovation conference, are intently interested in social media and how it fits into their organization, both from an IT and a business perspective.Meanwhile, collaboration continues to be the word of the day; is it any surprise that Cisco is pushing the terminology and will make it the focus of its discussions in front of analysts at this week's Cisco Collaboration Summit? (Well, given that name, no.) Again, many of the vendors and IT executives I spoke with at VoiceCon made a clear distinction between unified communications as a communications technology, and the business value they can deliver in supporting enterprise collaboration.

All of which makes sense, as far as it goes (more on collaboration after the Cisco confab). But the reality is, the two concepts are at odds.

There's no doubt that Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites hold enormous value for marketing, sales and customer support in the enterprise; they are literally changing the way companies manage those sides of their business. One executive told me that he just closed a $250,000 deal in 13 days, all on Twitter. Anyone who says social media is a flash in the pan might want to ponder hard numbers like those.

But as a business collaboration tool, public social media sites fall short. All the problems companies faced (and indeed, continue to face) with public IM-security, control, management, policies-exist on Facebook and Twitter (who hasn't been phished on either site lately?). Throw in the potential for making private corporate information public, and you've got a much bigger business problem on your hand. Users should assume whatever they say on Facebook and Twitter is public information, especially now that Bing will deliver it to the world in a search return. Is that really where you want to be conducting your internal collaboration?

The answer, of course, is enterprise-grade social networking technology-tools like IBM Lotus Connections and Socialtext's broad suite of applications. But I didn't see anyone talking about integrating UC with those applications (although IBM is certainly working on it within its own portfolio).

By all means, use public social media sites for marketing, customer support and, if you're able, sales. If integrating communications capabilities with Facebook and Twitter will make that easier and more effective, that's great. And by all means, find better ways to get your employees to collaborate, real-time and asynchronously, across teams and global boundaries.

Just don't merge the two.

(And don't rely on the seemingly popular E 2.0 addage: "Don't be stupid." People don't have to be stupid to do stupid things.)