Will corporate social networking include dating?

There’s no shortage of social networks out there…all hoping to cash in on the success of MySpace and the alleged billion dollar valuation of Facebook. Today’s Wall Street Journal and this article in the New York Times gives one extra dimension to the social networking phenomena: when a company like IBM recognizes social networking and prepares to ship software for companies to build and deliver their own social networks, it legitimizes the entire category.

Most organizations I’ve been in have amazingly insular cultures. People stay on their floor in a building, hobnob with small circles of colleagues, and executives rarely bother to have coffee or lunch with underlings. As a sales leader, I always encouraged my team to reach out and discover who in our company might know leaders at any of their prospects since it often allowed us access to information and people we otherwise wouldn’t have had.

Though the Holy Grail of marketers would be to find a way to unleash the collective intelligence of customers who’d tell them exactly what to make and what they’d then buy, starting with internally connecting the intelligence of the people inside the organization makes perfect sense.

With Ning, PeopleAggregator, GoingOn, ElggSpaces (sort of a Blogger for social network building), next generation bulletin board/forum software offerings like Alstrasoft’s efriends software (scroll down to visit social sites built with their software), to instructions on how to build your own MySpace, companies and people are scrambling to figure out what the next, great hub model will be now that more and more of us are connected online and participating like crazy…and are attempting to monetize the phenomena by empowering others to build their own networks.

I predict social network sites will explode this year and dwarf forums (as of today Big Boards tracks 1,933 forums) and getting attention for a new public network will be as tough as attracting people to a blog, web site or any other online offering.

About Steve Borsch

I’m CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you’re already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.


  1. Trends in the Living Networks says:

    IBM has just launched Lotus Connections, a suite of collaboration software, with functionality including staff profiles, communities, project spaces, social bookmarking, and blogging. This is a major release, but has long been on the cards. Back in Nov…

  2. Hey Steve

    Thanks for the plug. Wait til you see our V 1.2 that’s coming out any day now!

    Widget builder, CSS skins, Network Operator controls, RSS feeds, scalable, and ready to download at

  3. Pete Graham says:

    I worked on a large corporate Intranet system in my previous job and now work developing a social networking website. I believe intranets are often undervalued by many corporations, not only do they have the potential to affectively catalogue and distribute large amounts of core business information but if included with custom web applications they can also streamline/replace clunky manual systems that exist in many establishments.

    With the new trend of merging web 2.0 style collaborative websites with traditional business intranets (sometimes referred to as business 2.0), you have a situation where the Intranet is potentially the core of the business where huge amounts of communication and collaboration are done using it. If done correctly these new Intranets will give employees the same feel good factor associated with a social-networking/online-communities and they will also benefit the company through increased productivity, communication and shared information.

  4. I don’t know about the number of social network dwarfing forums.

    BoardTracker has closer to 40,000, and people in the industry estimate the total # to be closer to 250,000.

  5. Steve Borsch says:

    Marc — I’m going to really get my head around your next version rather than dabbling-from-afar as a PeepAgg user.

    Pete — No question that most “internally facing” software installs are baseline ones. Most companies are reluctant to invest too much on internal systems when these are, surprisingly, more valuable as tools to grow the top-line and lower costs.

    Justin — Holy schnikey! I didn’t know about BoardTracker and the nearly 40k boards tracked. I’ll need to do some more investigation on how Big-Boards, Boardtracker and others differentiate and how they decide on what to track. Thanks for the heads-up.

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