A recent article in Knowledge@Wharton asks if business-centric social networking is a “revolution” or a “ruse.”  Since we’re inclined here at this site to pick the revolutionary option, it’s worth examining why some experts at UPenn’s Wharton School may be skeptical about its power to transform business.

First, there’s the still-uncertain ROI aspect. As Shawndra Hill, a Wharton operations and information management professor, put it: “Social networking in the enterprise sector is relatively new, and better tools can enable people to communicate across an organization. But before this really takes off, there needs to be some proof that these things are useful.”  Kartik Hosanagar, Wharton professor of operations and information management, echos this sentiment: “I’m a little skeptical about usage, but I’m even more skeptical about benefits to corporations. Companies may use it, but I don’t think it will provide the productivity benefits vendors claim they will provide.”

Ultimately, the success of social networking in enterprises will not be employees and managers adopting sites such as Facebook and Twitter as a separate activity. Kendall Whitehouse, director of new media at Wharton, predicts that ultimately, social networking will simply be pervasive within enterprise software and processes. “Today, social networking is being thought of as a separate thing,” he says. “We’ll see that fade over time, and it will become just part of the way we interact.”

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