Earlier on today, and through my RSS newsfeeds, I bumped into an interesting piece of news taken out from BusinessWeek and which was also referenced by one of the weblogs I follow: El Blog de Enrique Dans. Enrique provides a good commentary on it (Article, and weblog, in Spanish) but I just thought that same news article would be worth while reading for those of you here in elsua who are interested in social networking. The BusinessWeek article is titled Social Networking Goes Corporate and it comes to show how different social networking tools are starting to dive into the corporate world. Like the case of Visible Path, which has got quite an impressive demo.
The article itself is a worth while read as it actually provides with you a good overview of what is actually happening in the world of social networking. How in most cases things with pretty popular social networking sites have started with word of mouth (Perhaps the best publicity you can have) and how after a few months they have become what they are today: the hang out place on the web for quite a few people out there. Indeed, in the article you would see how several different social networking sites get named and how they have built up their critical mass and from there how there are a number of emerging businesses, like Visible Path, that are coming along thinking that they could bridge the thin line between social networks for personal use and for business use.
I am sure that over the next few months we will start seeing a proliferation of such initiatives trying to bring social networking tools into the corporate world and I am sure that at this point in time people would have some kind of reservations as to how effective that adoption will be. I am sure most of you have thought about that already. Well, the way I see it I suspect that the adoption will be a gradual process till at about a certain point in time where they will be a huge boom and corporate businesses will never be the same again.
Indeed, what will actually happen is that most of those potential social networking tools mentioned in the article have been always oriented towards a younger population, although there are exceptions, of course. And they all love it (If you care to judge how popular those different offerings are, like MySpace, or FaceBook). So as that younger population starts to grow the adoption would be gradual but as soon as that same population enters the marketplace and becomes the main workforce (Something that is starting to happen now) that is when the big boom will go live. Main reason being that those same younger generations would want to break the barriers of the connections they make and continue to make use of similar tools to what they have been exposed to all along, but in a corporate environment. So what was once a Social Networks offering for personal use could well become the main business tool for that generation. That is why we will be seeing a huge proliferation of initiatives like the one that Visible Path has just launched.
Nobody is going to deny the good value add from social networks. We are way beyond the tipping point in that particular sense, however, up until now lots of people thought that they were a nice-thing-to-have and that is going to change drastically into a must-have for every company. Time will tell, I am sure, but certainly articles like Social Networking Goes Corporate clearly indicates where we are now and where we are heading to. Social Networks are here to stay, for sure, but I believe that it would take a little bit of time before they become just as popular in the corporate world. That would be happening when that younger workforce outnumbers by far the older generations. Something that may have started but that over the next few months will become much more relevant when the baby boomers start retiring and their jobs are taken by younger generations. I know that some of this may already be happening, see The Maturing Workforce weblog for some more details on this, but I am actually wondering if corporations would be ready for such a huge drastic change in the way we get to share knowledge and collaborate through the usage of social networks and forgetting perhaps some of the traditional methods of collaboration we may have been using all along. I think so. I do hope so. More than anything else because I doubt they would have a choice at this point if they would want to survive and if not time will tell.