When people ask what the next big thing in social media will be, they’re usually looking for an ascendant platform that will supplant Facebook the way Facebook supplanted MySpace or they’re expecting a feature set, such as geo-location or group messaging. But what if it’s not a network or a tool? What if it’s an application?

“Internal social media is the second wave … the future of work is in communities,” said Cisco’s Andrew Warden at this week’s Corporate Social Media Summit.

Warden gave the crowd four reasons to start looking at internal social tools:

  • The next wave of employees will expect it. The current workforce has members of every generation who love social tools, as well as those who loathe them. But the next generation of workers will have no such divide, Warden argued. These workers will have grown up with these tools and will expect to use them as part of their internal work communications, because that’s how they’ve always communicated. Failing to have an internal social media system in place would alienate these workers and keep them from fully contributing to the company, Warden said.
  • The workforce is increasingly global. Global deals, branch offices and telework are going to become more common for companies of every stripe and if you want remote teams to work together and stay engaged with their mission, you need to give them tools to work collaboratively, just as if they were all in the office together, Warden noted. Social tools also make 24-hour operations and complex global deals easier on employees, by allowing work to pass easily between time zones, thus empowering work/life balance without a loss of continuity.
  • It can make management easier. By watching internal social communications between employees, managers can figure out where their workers are spending the most time, where their pain points are and what resources are needed to enhance performance, Warden noted.
  • A strong corporate culture may depend on it. The focus of social media so far as been on external branding — communicating your vision and values to your customers. But what about your employees? Do they understand the company’s vision? Do they share it? Feel like they’re a part of it? Live it out everyday in their work? Warden notes that internal branding allows your company strategy to permeate the corporate culture, instead of working against it.

Of course, embracing internal social media will bring me fresh challenges, he notes. The technology is still evolving — Cisco decided to build their own internal tools rather than go with an outside vendor.  Training is key, particularly since broad guidelines such as “don’t do anything stupid” can mean radically different things to workers of different generations. And not every department will embrace such tools with the same vigor, possibly creating the need for incentive programs, he noted. All the more reason to get started now — before the next generation of workers shows up.

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One Response to “Are you ready for the second wave of social media?”

  1. In my opinion what you are calling “the next wave of social media” has already passed. Most organizations have implemented some sort of internal social media platform already and/or are in the process of adopting it. 

    However you are right that the next wave will be application focused. And with this, social media will start to deliver specific solutions for very specific problems.

    Bart Schrooten
    http://www.lumoresearch.com