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Social knowledge networks are more valuable than enterprise social networking

I took a survey back in April from Wainhouse Research that covered adoption and usage trends of Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) systems. Wainhouse has compiled the results and shared some of the findings with the respondents, which I'll talk about in a minute. But more importantly, this jogged my mind about explaining the difference between enterprise social networking and social knowledge networks.

At first it might sound like we're playing with semantics, but hear me out and I think you'll see the difference too.

ESN is largely defined by the industry as bringing consumer-based social media technologies into an organization. So for instance, it might include using IM, Facebook, Twitter, and other tools inside the company to facilitate communication and sharing among employees.

We describe SKNs, on the other hand, as a tight integration of a knowledge repository and social media. Core, vetted content-- like internal documents, news, and research -- is collected, organized, and made accessible. This content is then socialized with the wisdom of the community. This consists of people's knowledge, opinions, and feedback about vetted information, which they provide using context-based social tools, including commenting, rating, tagging, and blogging.

Unlike ESN, SKNs are secure, and specifically built with the enterprise in mind. SKNs use the concepts and benefits of social technologies as a platform for knowledge management, which provides benefits that ESN cannot. Consider this finding from the Wainhouse study:

32 percent of respondents consider inward-facing ESN (those used by employees) to be extremely or very important for the value it delivers to the enterprise. Benefits cited included improvements in collaboration, teamwork, productivity, and time to market.

This might be true. But SKNs do a better job at providing these benefits. Although value is derived from connecting people, greater value is derived when social media tools are integrated with content.

SKNs eliminates information silos by centralizing relevant information and social content into a single knowledge repository. This increase access to relevant information and helps employees do their jobs faster and with more accuracy, which increases their productivity.

SKNs fosters collaboration and quality control through context-based social tools, including comments, ratings, tagging and tag clouds, and blogging. SKNs are also a significant way to preserve knowledge assets and enhance the value of information. As employees retire or relocate, organizations can capture their knowledge before they leave. We need a central organizing element, that is, a community, a SKN, to capture and share that information.

The contribution and transfer of knowledge can be managed seamlessly and continuously in a SKN. Everybody plays a role in making the information richer. While users contribute to the relevance and quantity of information, librarians moderate input to ensure veracity.

SKNs give organizations a way to assimilate and get value out of social media faster than ESN, which I think will accelerate enterprise 2.0 adoption. Content is a natural honey pot. Social media can make it richer.

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