Why consumer social networks might not be right for the Enterprise.

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consumer social networksThe Silicon Valley rumor-mill lit up recently when the Financial Times reported that Facebook may be building a social network for business. And once they enter the Enterprise Social Networking market, it’s only a matter of time before GooglePlus+, Twitter, tumblr, or maybe even Pinterest dip their toe in, too. Soon, all consumer social networks could have an enterprise version available.

But is that a good thing? Should companies be using converted consumer social networks in the enterprise? Or will they just open the door to privacy and security concerns? Let’s take a look at the questions this move begs, as well as the potential pitfalls facing both consumer social networks and their potential enterprise customers.

Welcome to the Enterprise market. (No, seriously.)

If the Facebook rumor’s true — and the company hasn’t announced anything official yet — we here at TIBCO couldn’t be happier. Why would we want more competition, you ask? Especially from social networking’s 500lb. gorilla? Because nothing validates the benefits of deploying an Enterprise Social Network faster than having one of the world’s biggest consumer social networks get into the market.

Thanks to this fast-spreading rumor, lots of companies which aren’t currently enjoying the benefits of an Enterprise Social Network will start looking into them. And when they do, they’ll learn about the ESN category leaders (cough, TIBCO! cough) to compare how a converted consumer social network stacks up against the leading enterprise-specific ones.

Competition is good for everybody.

Everyone knows that competition improves products, and better products mean happier customers. Happy customers, by evangelizing ESNs to other people, help grow the category and create a bigger “pie” overall which means more business for everyone in the category — frankly, it’s win-win.

Now, sure, consumer social networking brands could come out of the gate with a solid first effort, but the fifth iteration of tibbr will be hard to catch. Especially because 2014 has been a pretty good year for tibbr in terms of industry recognition and analyst research. The analyst group, Gartner, named tibbr a leader in their “Magic Quadrant for Social Software.” Another well-respected analyst, Forrester Research, recognized tibbr as a leader, too. In addition, tibbr has won a whole bunch of other equally nice awards.

Consumer social networks face different hurdles.

While consumer social networks are undeniably popular, they nonetheless could face some big potential stumbling blocks when trying to appeal to large organizations. After all, personal privacy is one thing, but the needs and expectations of enterprise privacy is quite a different matter altogether.

Companies who share business-confidential conversations and documents must be able to unquestionably trust that their service providers have privacy and security locked down. Consumer networks that have problems with hackers could have companies wondering if they’re trustworthy business partners.

Social networks vs. separate networks.

Another potential pitfall for consumer social networks is the possibility of “cross-over” — that is, the risk that employees will accidentally post personal data to the company network. Or worse, post business-confidential company information to their personal social network.

Obviously, cross-over is an issue that consumer social networks are well aware of, and will no doubt take great pains to prevent. But it could be a constant concern because consumer social networks are already a target for spammers and hackers and, as an Enterprise product, could attract better-financed corporate spies as well.

Enterprise adoption is inevitable.

Regardless of whether or not Facebook enters the market, the rumor of it alone has put the entire industry in the spotlight, and that’s good for everyone. The growth of the enterprise social software market has been on a tear according to Vanessa Thompson at IDC, who — even before the Facebook rumor — predicts a five-year, compound annual growth rate of 23 percent for ESNs. We can only imagine what will happen now.

The market is maturing amid consolidation and integration,” Forrester Inc. analyst Philipp Karcher says. “However, we see improving adoption every year as enterprise social becomes a standard component in the employee toolkit.

If you want to learn more about the ESN competition that consumer social networks have to beat, read this new Gartner report: “Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace.” Or get hands-on experience using one of the category leading Enterprise Social Networks with your very own free trial of tibbr now »