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Coming-out party percolating for Web 2.0 wallflowers

While Web 2.0 has infiltrated the consumer arena en mass, the same rapid adoption rate is yet to be seen in the enterprise sector. Many companies are Web 2.0 shy, and haven't explored social technologies, or have instituted policies against them.

Some of the latest research of this trend that I've come across is this Kforce survey, which found nearly 65 percent of companies have not taken advantage of any Web 2.0 platform. But I think the more interesting way to look at this stat is, 35 percent of companies have adopted social media into their business. And that opens discussion for how the adoption will play out.

I see a potential parallel to the way Web search was adopted by the enterprise. Web search was entrenched in society long before organizations started inserting Google-like search buttons on their Web sites and integrating enterprise search for aggregating content within the organization.

Why? Because search became so ingrained in everyone's personal lives that they began to expect it in their business lives as well.

I think social media adoption will experience the same trickle-down effect. People rely on the timeliness of RSS feeds, the contributed wisdom of blogs, and the more personal form of dialogue from podcasts, to get and share information. Most of us engage in social media in our personal lives and experience the benefit. It's only natural it will segue into business.

However, trickle-down technology from a consumer to a business environment often faces unique challenges, the biggest of which is the unknown. This can be broken down in three major questions:

Who are the legitimate players in the space? Businesses want to know that the applications they implement are created by solid companies with successful track records. The stakes are higher in business, and technology investments must be vetted and proven.

What are the implications of this technology? Because there are still a relatively small percentage of companies using social technology, information professionals want a sense of how the technology will impact business. It takes time to gather data on the tactics, tips, and tricks for a successful social strategy.

How do we control it? The last thing businesses want is for a social strategy to get out of control. Some concerns: Will it be clouded with bad input? Will it waste productivity? Will it generate bad content? Simply inserting blogs and wikis into an organization is no guarantee for success.

Fortunately, as more and more organizations adopt Web 2.0 technologies and social strategies, the unknown will continue to shrink. Some organizations are seeing real benefits of Web 2.0 that extend far beyond the basics of a recruiting tool. Our customers are prime examples.

In fact, I see social knowledge networks as a way to accelerate adoption of social tools. Say a SKN is the first social platform a business adopts. From there, we could see a trickle-up effect, in which the company begins adopting other social tools, such as consumer-facing technologies.

The reason I say this is that it's difficult to just use one social media tool. I think other regular social media users would agree, if you're blogging, you're probably also social networking, sharing YouTube videos, Tweeting, etc. Social media is centered around collaboration in a multitude of forms, naturally connecting one another personally and professionally. And it looks like it's only going to get bigger.

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