Before I post any more about upcoming events, I’d like to share some thoughts on social technology — apropos of my briefing on that subject earlier this month in São Paulo, where I was pleased to be part of the first Interop conference in Brazil.

This was actually the second time this year that I’ve talked with enterprise IT pros about the workplace incursion of what some see as dangerous distractions: tools like Facebook, Twitter and the like. In Shanghai, as well as in São Paulo, my position on social software tools has been the same:

  • Social software is here.
  • Social tools create — and represent — an expectation of ability to have candid conversations.
  • You can either be a gracious host to the conversation, or you can have people talk about your company and your products where you don’t know what they’re saying.

Given that the social genie is not going back in the bottle, there are three key points to bear in mind.

  • Social expectations can be supported with appropriate technology to minimize the risk of runaway resource use. For example,
    • A repository like Salesforce Content makes it easier to share links to a single copy of a piece of rich-media content, instead of wasting storage and bandwidth on multiple identical copies being shared around a social circle.
    • A structured discussion forum like Salesforce Ideas increases the signal-to-noise ratio of conversations, instead of letting the merely verbose and provocative participants dominate the discourse.
  • Policies and standards for on-the-job behavior don’t need to be re-invented in parallel for the new social-tools environment. You’ll do much better to make it clear, instead, that these tools are just a further extension of the workplace: that normal expectations of civility, and of prudent regard for handling of sensitive information, will be consistently applied.
  • Adoption of social tools should always be done for a business reason, such as identification and sharing of expertise or improvement of collaboration in solving problems. There should never be a "Wiki initiative" in a company, or a "Facebook program," but rather a "Campaign for Collaboration" or a "Tools for Talent." It’s not about the technology input; it’s about the beneficial output.

Social tools are clearly not just kid stuff. The favorable buzz around something like the Starbucks or Dell sites for customer-driven change, or the role of social networking in the Obama campaign, compel enterprise attention.

The conversation, as I said before, will take place: be part of it.

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