Could IBM be the Facebook of the enterprise?

Colette Martin over on the Forbes blogs picked up on a thread which has been floating around the net for the last couple of months: whether IBM can be to the enterprise what Facebook is to the consumer space. That is, can IBM be the social network du jour for company intranets?

IBM has been an early innovator of the internal use of many web-based technologies: email, instant messaging and intranet technologies. The question is whether it can extend that innovative thinking into the social networking space.

What would this platform require? Colette suggests:

“The ability to selectively connect, to share information, to respond/comment on information, and to be able to integrate with other company data and systems”

adding:

“The concept of groups would be key – with the ability to create sub-groups within groups, and groups that bring other groups together”

I’d heartily agree with all of these features. On the subject of sub-groups, some years ago I was ready to execute our social networking strategy across the Ning network, only to find that we couldn’t create relationships between groups (hierarchical or otherwise). This was a major hurdle given that we would not be able to link different product sub-groups across a product line group, so we were forced back to the drawing board.

Social email

Another feature I would like to see in an enterprise social network is the ability to make email more ‘social’. By that I mean highlight emails from those with whom you have a relationship on a social network. I’d prefer to see emails first from those in my team and with whom I frequently work. Both Facebook and Google have recently implemented social emailing capabilities. In the enterprise, where email can be such a resource drain, social email capabilities offers the potential for a considerable increase in productivity.

The extra-intranet

As a social media marketer, I spend a significant amount of time trawling our intranet for content that can be exposed externally. This can include product walkthroughs produced for the sales teams or partners, deeper technical information on our customer case studies, intra-departmental communications. Obviously some care has to be taken to ensure nothing confidential seeps out of our walls, but I’m constantly surprised at the amount of content we have that can be exposed. I’m also woefully aware of the duplicate effort our marketing teams go through to make sure their external marketing campaigns are also promoted within the company.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if we could post relevant content simultaneously externally and internally? If I have a blog post talking about a new product release, what if I could just check a box so that this message is pushed across both our internal and external social networks? I’m not suggesting this be the default setting(!), but I can see considerable value in having the ability to share content both internally and externally.

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant

If you are interested in learning more about the enterprise social networking space, I recommend checking out the 2010 Gartner report on Internal Social Software.

IBM, along with two other vendors, make it into the visionary/leader quadrant: potentially giving them the best shot at becoming the Facebook of the enterprise.

More on IBM social computing solutions

Read Colette Martin’s post on Forbes

Read the source post from Drew Neisser on Fast Company