Corporations are afraid of social networking

I have been reading The Cluetrain Manifesto and noticing how relevant this book is almost 10 years after its publication.  The book and the manifesto itself address how business is changing in the Internet age.  Back in the dark ages, before computers and mass media, commerce was done through conversations between people.  The village bazaar with its hustle and bustle is where people met, talked, gossiped, spread news and generally got things done.  It was chaotic and informal. It was human.  You can see the same thing at a county fair or a garage sale.  It’s informal and its also fun.

In a recent article entitled Risky Business & the InternetNicole Ferraro talks about how organizations are preventing employees from using Web 2.0 technologies at work.  In a recent poll about the threats technology poses to their organizations, email and none of the above were at the top.  None of the above sounds like there are bigger concerns than Web 2.0.  I noticed that using the Internet was not in the poll.  When it first emerged many organizations didn’t know what to make of it and tried to ban it.  Today I can’t imagine any business preventing people from using the Internet.

I think that most people would agree that email has been far more beneficial to business and life in general than it has been a risk.  Most of the problems with email are from people who are not responsible or careless.  But that is the case with most things in life.  We are human and we act that way.  Yet organizations still use email.  I’m sure when it first came on the scene, many people were excited about it and many were terrified.  But we got over it and now see its value.  It helps us meet, talk, gossip, spread news and generally get things done.

The same is true with Twitter, Facebook, blogs, LinkedIn and a hundred other existing and to be developed technologies.  It is reasonable to take precautions to protect a company’s secrets and intellectual property, but don’t stifle the conversations that drive business and our lives.  Social networking tools are the new village bazaar, county fair, garage sale and water cooler.  I have gotten more good ideas over the years from informal conversations around the water cooler or over lunch than I have in structured meetings.  Corporations wouldn’t think of stopping people from going out to lunch (I hope) and talking, so why stop social networking.  Its the same thing.  Humans are social animals and we are at our best when we can interact with others.


photo credit Wikipedia

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