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Internal Social Networks Finding their Way into Corporate America

June 27, 2011

If a communication medium becomes pervasive in the consumer space, it will eventually make its way into the corporate world, usually with security officers kicking and screaming along the way.

Just like smartphones and tablet devices before it, the social network is slowly carving out a place for itself in corporate America. Within the last few years, a number of SMBs and enterprises have adopted internal social networks so that their employees can discuss projects, business practices and other work-related matters in a more comfortable and collaborative setting, according to a New York Times report.

As one would expect, this movement has caught the eye of software companies that can provide organizations with a platform for internal social networks. Leading this charge is software vendor Salesforce.com, which provides its Chatter platform to around 80,000 companies, according to the Times. Meanwhile, San Francisco-based startup Yammer says that its service is utilized by nearly 100,000 companies.

Hot on their heels are software giants like Cisco, SAP and VMware, which have each recently launched competing offerings, says the paper. The cost of these internal networks range considerably. Some are included as free supplements for existing software customers, while others will cost anywhere from $5 to $15 per user per month.

So far, the biggest stumbling block for internal social networks has been security. Gartner analyst Susan Landry told the Times that employees can develop bad habits, like posting confidential information in public areas. "It's sometimes a disaster," she said. "It sometimes gets shut down by security or compliance."

In addition, many companies strictly prohibit data being stored outside of their firewall which happens when social network providers use their own servers, Landry told the Times.

The role that social networks play in the world has changed drastically over the last 18 months. Sites like Twitter and Facebook – once resigned to broadcasting the insignificant rants of celebrities – are now being utilized for more constructive purposes.

Social networks have been used in nations like Egypt and Tunisia to organize protests and inspire support for political change. Facebook and Twitter have also been utilized by victims of natural disasters to stay connected to the outside world.  

Beecher Tuttle is a unified communications contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

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