Integrating Social Media in the Enterprise

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Social Media: Where's the Strategy?

While corporate participation in social media is increasing, many companies still do not have a strategic plan for its use.

My gut feeling is that the conversation about whether to embrace social media in the enterprise seems to be wrapping up. I haven't seen any recent adoption statistics, but I noted with interest Paul Mah's recent post on how small and mid-sized businesses are spending more on social media.


Granted, that picture is a bit complicated when you consider that a few days later, he shared a different survey showing that 53 percent of SMBs in the UK and the U.S. have banned Facebook-but their concerns mostly center around Facebook's malware issues. The percentages were lower when you looked at other social media sites, such as Twitter.


So, my sense is that attitudes have changed since the first of the year, when a Robert Half survey found that 54 percent of U.S. companies with more than 100 employees had banned social media sites.


That means it's time to start talking practicalities, like how and to what extent you integrate these social media solutions with other systems, such as CRM (customer resource management). I've seen precious little on the topic, until Friday, when eWEEK Lab's Cameron Sturdevant wrote an article examining the challenges and options for using social media in the enterprise. I suggest that eWEEK is ahead of what will become a very popular topic in the coming year.


The integration question isn't pretty right now, according to Sturdevant's assessment:


"What's the best way to use social collaboration tools with partners? Is there a better way to integrate social media and back-end systems? The answer today is that a tangle of integration tools and a dearth of standards mean that IT managers must pay careful attention to a wide range of integration tools to curtail client creep."


That's to be expected at this early stage, though. And to be honest, after reading Sturdevant's article, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there's a lot of good news when it comes to integrating social media, in part because social media vendors tend to be pro-active about online integration, using REST APIs. Although he doesn't mention it, I suspect they're also eager to tap into that lucrative enterprise market.


The downside is that integration tools tend to be vendor specific, he says:


"The not-so-good news is that specific integration tools that are built to support specific platforms are the norm today. For example, there is a specific Salesforce.com integration that links Salesforce's Chatter social collaboration tool with Facebook and Twitter. And Socialtext provides SocialPoint to interoperate with Microsoft's SharePoint intranet software."


Sturdevant says two emerging standards are of particular interest to enterprises: ActivityStreams and OStatus. ActivityStreams addresses data feeds between social platforms by "standardizing the format used to exchange information," while OStatus is an open specification used to share status updates between different social networks.


He also discusses a few specific offerings, especially CastIron's social media integration capabilities. If you're interested in Chatter, Salesforce.com and SAP's Streamwork, you might also want to check out Mike Vizard's recent post about integration solutions from the iWay division of Information Builders.