Amid all the hubbub over external social media marketing, internal social networking within a single company or project team has a much lower profile. Recent developments, however, indicate that enterprise social networking's stock is rising quickly.
This spring Salesforce.com Inc. rolled out Rypple, an internal social tool aimed at human resources departments. Rypple provides management of corporate goal-setting, recognition and feedback, mimicking game mechanics by offering badges and “skills earned” awards.
The service is expected to be tightly integrated with Salesforce's other major collaborative social tool, Chatter, which allows project co-workers to crowd-source ideas via broadcast updates, posted messages and requests for advice and feedback. Rypple recognitions will echo in an employee's Chatter feed, and recognitions a person receives will become part of his or her social profile in Salesforce, according to the company.
In June, Microsoft Corp. entered the enterprise social space with its $1.2 billion acquisition of Yammer Inc., which functions similarly to Chatter and Jive Software's Social Business Platform. That acquisition is expected to augment internal collaboration and sales effectiveness via Microsoft's Dynamics CRM product.
And this month, big marketing automation company Eloqua Corp. announced a licensing deal with Salesforce to offer Chatter directly within the Eloqua dashboard. The integration of the social tool, available free to Eloqua users in the fourth quarter, will help close the gap between marketing and sales, Eloqua said.
“Collaboration is the last barrier to getting sales and marketing aligned,” said Rob Bois, Eloqua manager-product marketing. “It also will help within large global enterprises, because often many more people than just marketing and sales are involved in efforts to build campaigns, including outside agencies.”
Dave King, senior director-Chatter at Salesforce, said: “It's not about moving 'water-cooler talk' online; it's about integrating social into every business process and application, including marketing.”
While marketing can benefit from the crowd-sourcing of creative and tactics, sales can find that internal social collaboration provides quick answers from product experts or ready access to the latest marketing collateral, King said.
Enterprise social networks may not be appropriate in all cases. Smaller companies won't benefit as much from the crowd-sourcing of ideas, due simply to their smaller employee counts. Meanwhile, companies made up primarily of younger employees in cutting-edge industries may take to internal social collaboration more comfortably.
Benefits can include streamlined internal communications, capture of institutional knowledge, identifying and recognizing talent, and even unifying disparate technology systems via a single tool.
“A distributed, mobile work force also is driving the shift,” said James Davidson, VP-digital and community strategy at social media marketing agency 7Summits, Milwaukee. “It allows them to find information, people, content or expertise to get the job done while in the field and traveling.”
The ROI of enterprise social networking might also be seen in harder metrics than better collaboration and idea generation. In a recent blog post, Ashley Furness, CRM market analyst at Software Advice, cited Salesforce and Jive findings that internal social networking can reduce email volume by 30%, slice meeting time by 27% and cut the time to find an expert to solve a problem by 34%.
“These apps aren't perfect,” Furness said, indicating that several companies she's talked to view enterprise social networks as “a distraction.”
“Even so, interest continues to grow as technology improves,” she said. “From what I've learned, the question is no longer if socialized business will become the norm but when.”