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Tackling the social messaging dilemma

There are positive aspects to social media. But as is frequently the case, the technology that's popular with consumers is far ahead of the enterprise's ability to deal with its ramifications.

NEW YORK - The next wave of corporate messaging technology will certainly include a social media component.

Although social messaging tools are hugely popular with consumers, the technology has far outpaced a corporation's ability to reconcile the communication explosion with regulatory restrictions. Naturally, this will produce much angst among IT staff charged with keeping enterprise data locked down.

Everyone is trying to figure out how to introduce social media tools while still keeping tabs on corporate data. At a session focused on the future of messaging held recently at Interop 2009, one IT manager said, "We won't bring it into the enterprise until it can be logged, backed up and produced when the lawyers ask for it." This was in response to a debate by a panel of experts on the various merits of social networking tools, including Twitter, Yammer, Enterprise Social Messaging Experiment, Ididwork and other tools with micro-messaging functions.

So what is the compelling use case to have end users on a social networking tool such as Twitter, in addition to instant messaging or some other collaborative tool? For Caroline Dangson, an analyst at IDC, the Framingham, Mass.-based consulting firm, the top reasons are public relations awareness and content sharing.

For others, the best use case for Twitter is knowledge management. "For me, enterprise social messaging is my personal Google," said Jonathan Yarmis, a research fellow at Ovum, an independent global IT analysis group. "I can put [a question] out on Twitter and through my own self-selecting group of friends I can get relevant responses that are customized for me."

For many people, however, there is still a need to learn how to distill and automate all data that comes their way to make it more meaningful, he added.

Some conclusions on using social media during the session were:

    • Social media recognizes the value of people more than the documents that get lost in share drives. The technology reveals an organizational chart that does not necessarily reflect the business flow chart. It reveals a shadow organization where the real lines of communication exist.

  • One promise of micro messaging is you can find the person in the organization with the answer. You can also identify that person as an expert. But take heed -- that person may not want to be recognized as an expert.

  • People dismiss social messaging because of security concerns. If you can create a free zone -- a public space -- you can collect a lot of data.

  • Individually, these messages are ephemeral but they are important in the aggregate. Companies need to add some sort of analytic component where they can derive value out of patterns.

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