I love when reporters ask me whether social software can be productive in the enterprise. Their questions always begin with something like, "why would an employee use something like Facebook at work?" (First off, if it actually was Facebook they wouldn't use it for work, but that's a different post.) The implicit assumption is that employees would sit around adding friends and poking each other. I understand the perception, since social tools like blogs, social networking, and Twitter started in the consumer space.

 

But it's like saying email is totally ridiculous at work.

Email started as a goofy tool. You sent it to your friends instead of letters. "Grandma! It's me, I'm writing you a letter from my computer!" But as soon as we took it into the workplace, it had purpose by definition. We were at work. We did work things. I guess there may have been a moment of, "Hey Bob, I'm sending you an email. Testing. Testing. Is this thing on?" But then Bob said "yes, now what the hell

do you want. We have work to do."

 

The same questions I get today about social productivity software were asked of email at that time. How is email productive? What's the ROI? The bigger challenge I see with social productivity software is that it's hard to explain and far less analogous. Email was easy. "It's like a letter, but on your computer." Try that with blogging, wikis, rss or the hundreds of vowel-less companies associated with social software. It doesn't help that we've chosen the word "social" as the prefix.

 

The funny thing is that we're trapping ourselves with this language. If the button said, "status report" instead of "blog," people would go,"oh!" click on it and get started.