Adopting Social Media For Internal Use

    August 4, 2009
    Chris Crum

Results from an interesting study with a different spin on social media were released by Nielsen Norman Group. These things often look at social media adoption by businesses, but this one looks specifically at social media adoption within enterprise intranets.

The study found that many of the most successful social media initiatives on company intranets began as underground, grassroots efforts by front-line employees. They were later adopted and sanctioned by higher-level executives.

Jakob Nielsen"Underground adoption of off-the-shelf Web 2.0 tools might seem out of character in the enterprise, but users see the value of these tools and are more often than executives able to translate that value to an internal use," said usability expert Jakob Nielsen, principal of Nielsen Norman Group. "Social software is a trend that cannot be ignored. It is bringing about fundamental change to the way people expect to communicate with one another. Companies cannot use social tools with their customers and not also allow their employees to utilize them."

The group finds that companies are turning a blind eye to social software tools until they are proven to be valuable. At that point, they are integrated more thoroughly. Many senior managers consider social media something for teens, but young workers who already have experience with social media expect to use such tools in the workplace.

Workers tend to use their personal identities within social communities on enterprise intranets, and there is typically not much of a need for the company to police them, according to Nielsen Norman Group. That said, just as brands can’t completely control their messages in social media, the same applies internally.

"Web 2.0 has transformed the way users communicate, share and collaborate online, and while this revolution has taken place outside the enterprise, it has a direct impact inside the firewall," said Nielsen Norman Group user-experience specialist Patty Caya. "As social tools begin to shape workers’ expectations for how they get things done, it raises expectations for how they collaborate and communicate and participate in content development. The social Web has turned consumers into producers and this will impact how they work."

The group estimates that it will take three to five years for most companies to successfully adopt and integrate social technologies into their intranets. It would be interesting to know just how commonly they are being adopted at this point.