Social networks on the Internet are becoming extremely popular and have begun to change the way we live and work (Fraser and Dutta 2008). Some of these networks are business-oriented and can create work-related opportunities. The most notable of these is LinkedIn, which concentrates on business connections and job placements. Since 2007, numerous major corporations have opened pages on Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, LinkedIn and other social networks (Rutledge 2008). Web 2.0 technologies, including wikis, discussion forums, blogs, and microblogs (most notably Twitter), are currently being successfully used by many companies. Facebook is rapidly expanding its advertising and marketing activities with close to a million businesses having a presence there. An International Data Corporation study (Dangson 2009) reported that 57% of U.S. workers already use social media for business purposes at least once per week. The aforementioned social- and business-oriented networks are public. Anyone can join the communities they provide to build a network. Enterprises also have the option of creating in-house, private social networks that are restricted to employees and members with whom they are affiliated or have a business relationship (such as retired employees, customers, and suppliers).
These networks are referred to as enterprise (or corporate) networks and they offer tools identical to those provided by public social networks, including Web 2.0 collaboration tools.
There are many examples of the successful application of private and public social networks by firms and government offices. For example, Wells Fargo rolled out an enterprise employee portal with significant social networking capabilities for more than 200,000 of its employees including Wachovia employees) and has reported significant productivity improvements (Tuten 2008). Northrop Grumman has an internal social network that links more than 120,000 employees worldwide. The company has created what it calls “communities of practice”—groups that are focused on a specific topic or technology, ranging from the guts of systems engineering to new hire networking (Terdiman 2007). Almost all Fortune 500 companies (notable examples include IBM, Sears, GE, and Toyota) now have a presence in Second Life and continue to experiment with its different applications (Barnetta 2009). Butow and Taylor (2008) showed how companies are using LinkedIn to gain strategic advantage, and Drury (2008) reported significant growth in online recruitment and marketing strategies since 2007. Companies, such as Coca Cola, IBM, Starbucks, and Dell Computers, have a presence on Facebook. Social networks are also being used extensively by many e-government programs (e.g., New Zealand, Australia), and dozens of governments have islands on Second Life. The Home Office, a ministerial department of the U.K. Civil Service, uses an internal social network called Civil Pages to support its employees in activities, such as cooperative work and knowledge management (Rooksby 2010).
It is clear that organizations are taking advantage of social networking technology of all types and are engaging in an increasing portfolio of applications, which we refer to here as “enterprise social networking.” Firms (including governments) interact with social network sites or employ social networking activities (e.g., blogs) in several ways, with the following constituting the major modes of usage.
1. Participation in public social networks (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Second Life)
to engage in information sharing, advertising, market research, recruitment, and other
2. Creation of internal social networks for the exclusive use of employees and alumni (e.g.,
Oracle’s Connect, IBM SocialBlue).
3. Creation of enterprise-owned social networks for customers and business partners (e.g.,
4. Enhancement of existing application platforms, such as e-mail and customer relationship
management, by including functionalities that are commonly available in social
networking systems as blogs, wikis, and discussion forums.
5. Development of tools or services that include capabilities to support social networking
applications (e.g., IBM’s Lotus Connections, Microsoft’s SharePoint and NKSoft iMeet.biz).
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