Is there a social networking "perfect storm" brewing for organizations? Consider these facts, and it sure seems like it:
- This year, the first generation of Web and social network-savvy youth (those who were born after the popularity of the Internet) graduate from high school…and will enter the workforce over the next 6 years
- The social network and blogging audience is becoming more diverse in terms of age: the biggest increase in visitors (+11.3 million) during 2008 to “Member Community” Web sites globally came from the 35-49 year old age group (Source: Nielsen-Online)
- One in every 11 minutes online globally is accounted for by social network and blogging sites (Source: Nielsen-Online)
So, what this shows is that the use of social networking tools is not limited to just a few demographics, and that the use is growing...rapidly. I just returned from a few days at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, and the overriding theme was social networking tools and technology (I estimate that 95% of the exhibitors were hawking some sort of social networking software). IBM had a display featuring most of the Lotus offerings, including Lotus Connections, our own social networking solution (which was well received), as well as WebSphere Portal. A lot of the discussion on the show floor was centered on the question of how social networking can be effectively implemented by an organization for business gain - with a lot of opinions!
Perhaps the most interesting part of the event, however, was an interactive session called "Socializing Enterprise Portals". It featured Larry Bowden, IBM's VP Portal & Mashups, along with a speaker from Oracle and an analyst from the Burton Group. The session focused on the topic of the convergence of Web portals, a predominant enterprise technology, with social networking, currently most often an external destination site. Based on the fact that many enterprises leverage a portal to deliver a controlled Web experience to all types of users - and that these same users are (or soon will) participate in one or more social networks outside of the portal (be it for personal or professional reasons) - the reality is that it is a not a question of "if" portal and social networks will converge, but "when"?
Of course here at IBM we absolutely think that a "collaborative portal" has tremendous value, especially when it goes beyond simply allowing real-time chats, and incorporates social software capabilities (to become a "social portal" ). This blog for example is delivered through the My developerWorks portal so we can share our collective portal-related knowledge, insights, ideas and questions directly to, and among, people of common interests...easily and we hope effectively! For another good example, maybe you saw this demo at Lotusphere that showed the combination of IBM's social & collaborative capabilities seamlessly within WebSphere Portal. But what about social services, like Facebook and Twitter, that are outside an enterprise's boundaries? Here is a new video of an actual demonstration of WebSphere Portal bringing those external social services into a portal application to show how that concept might work. (TIP: click the "HD" icon on the video player toolbar to view the video in high def!)
It should get very interesting over the next year or so to see how enterprises go about bringing social networking into their portals; keep an eye on this space as we will work to keep you informed on the approaches, trends and successes related to this hot topic...and of course, we welcome your thoughts!
-- Brian Chaput