Are enterprises ready for social networking? Are social networking apps ready for the enterprise?

In the latest issue of eWeek, Matt Hicks asks two critical questions:
Are enterprises ready for social networking?
Are social networking vendors ready for the enterprise?

This is noteworthy because it’s the first really in-depth look that a major publication has taken at business-focused social networking applications like Spoke, Visible Path, and Zero Degrees, which are focused on the enterprise market. In particular, the article gives some insight into the product strategies of these companies. They also take a look at what enterprise customers want from social networking applications and the experience of some of the early adopters.

The top priority, of course, is ROI. As with any new technology, the mainstream is waiting to see demonstrated return on investment from the early adopters. The big pay-off is expected in the sales and business development groups, who are already heavy users of sales force automation systems. Collaborative technologies consultant Stowe Boyd, interviewed for the article, had this to say:

“There’s no place more evident than in sales that who you know is more important than what you know.”

One of the most interesting points I found raised was that the early adopters are feeling perfectly comfortable with the rejected referral requests, too:

“Almost all the business-focused networks also try to emulate real-life etiquette by requiring a user to go through their first-degree connection in order to gain a connection with more distant contacts. Spoke and Visible Path, for example, even shield the intermediary’s information, allowing that person to anonymously decline a request to make a connection without having to worry about damaging a relationship.

Tucker said that his direct connections have declined on a few occasions to pass through his requests to connect with someone, and he has opted against granting requests from users wanting to connect with him. In both cases, there were no hard feelings. The feedback from the denials often is as valuable as the potential connections, he said.”

It’s great to see this kind of coverage finally.