Nielsen also said enterprise communities that spring up are very good about policing themselves, conducting themselves in a professional manner. This means organizations need not institute controls. That isn't the case at ESPN, which this month instituted social network controls.
eWEEK polled other analysts from IDC and Gilbane Group to see what their client bases tell them about social software in the enterprise. In a survey IDC conducted earlier this year about social networking use in businesses, 51 percent of the respondents said they were using consumer platforms such as Facebook and MySpace, as well as paid enterprise tools, such as wikis and blogs.
While this may be on the low side (some respondents may fear reprisals from management), IDC analyst Carolyn Dangson told eWEEK that of this 51 percent, 34 percent were doing it on their own, without the blessing of the corporation. In other words, users are taking it upon themselves to start using such tools at the grassroots level, echoing what Nielsen found in its study.
"It's absolutely bottom-up," Dangson said. "These tools are brought in to plug in holes and make certain businesses processes more efficient and provide services the tools the companies themselves have invested in don't provide."
However, this adoption is happening at the department level, and not across the entire enterprise. She also said vendors are recognizing this, which is why they're offering free, 30-day trials of their products.
Gilbane's Geoff Bock told eWEEK there is something going on in social software at work, but the industry is having a hard time putting its finger on it. Essentially, what we're qualifying as use now is really experimentation to massage the information overload issue. Bock said:
"We're all suffering from information overload, we are all looking for better ways to manage our attention and we are all interconnected with one another. This is changing the way we communicate with one another and the way we expect to do business with one another. This then changes the way groups of people can interact with one another. We're still in the period of the innovators and the early adopters who are experimenting. It's not clear what the home run is going to be. "
The enterprise has time to work this out. Indeed, Nielsen Norman Group estimates a timeline of three to five years for companies to successfully adopt and integrate social technologies into their intranets.