Collaboration and Social Networking in Today’s Enterprises

A Research Study Of The Enterprise Learning Audience

Last month, Facebook captured 510 million users. Enterprises are in deep dialogue about the value and lifecycle of social networks for business. In Elearning! and Government Elearning! magazines’ Enterprise Social Collaboration Research conducted in May 2010, 72% of those surveyed use or plan to use social networks or collaboration tools for business, slightly down from 77% in 2009. However, a solid 28% have no plans to implement one.

In contrast, collaborative technologies (CTC) are thriving in private and public sector enterprises. Ninety-two percent rely on these solutions to train and/or communicate with co-workers and connect with stakeholders. CTC is tightly woven into the fabric of the U.S. workplace.


Elearning! and Government Elearning! magazines conducted a 28-question survey to their subscribers and community members to reveal the current business use of social networks, online communities and collaborative technologies across U.S. enterprises. The findings of this study are presented with comparative data from a similar 2009 survey.

The survey audience this year consisted of corporate enterprise subscribers of Elearning! and Government Elearning! print and online media, as well as social community members. Of the 296 respondents, 83 (28%) were screened out because they did not use social networks for business.

The survey respondent’s average age is 46.6 years versus 47.7 in 2009. Respondents are very likely to work in high technology, financial or business services, the three categories that account for 41% of responses. A steep decline was noted in manufacturing and retail, while a significant increase was tracked for the public sector, which accounted for 30% of responses. Forty-nine percent of these organizations employed 1,000 people or more.


Respondents use a variety of collaboration solutions including social networks, online communities and collaborative technologies. The greatest value for collaborative leverage on specific business processes was delivered by collaborative technologies and online communities, with social networks lagging third.


Use of social networks for business is relatively young with respondents testing or using for 22.8 months on average.When it comes to platforms, Sharepoint saw the largest gain with 40% using. Facebook followed at 44%, up 9 points. However, 22% are using custom or in house social platforms, down from 25% in 2009. LMS providers are named by 18%, up from 17% in 2009.

Popular public platforms named are: LinkedIn (52%, up 2 points from 2009), Twitter (34%, up 7 points), Ning (9%, up from 0%) and MySpace (6%, down 5 points.) “Other” declined to 11% of responses from 28% in 2009, indicating higher awareness of branded solutions including: Yammer (20%, up from 7%), Plaxo (5%, down from 11%), Outstart Participate and Jive (2% each, up from 0%.)

Most that use social networks for business participate in multiple networks. Sixty-eight percent report two or more, up from 59% in 2009. And 25% report using one and 7% plan to use.

HR/training, sales and marketing, and IT are the top users of social networking for business in this study.When it comes to the investment decision, corporate management leads 32% of the time. CIO/IT (20%), sales & marketing (20%) and “no one” (13%) follow. Last year, “no one” was the highest category at 21%, indicating owners are being located and sourcing more branded solutions.

In 2009, the audience was twice as likely to leverage business use of social networks to gain content expertise than the general business audience. In 2010, information sourcing and personal connections still top the list of business uses, but at much higher levels.


Enterprise collaboration technologies (CTC) are well established in today’s enterprise, while online communities (OLC) lag slightly. Eighty-two percent of respondents use or plan to use online communities (OLC) for work. They have used (OLC) for 22.8 months on average. And 55% participate in two or more OLCs, up from 44% in 2009.

In comparison, CTC are defined as realtime communication tools (like GoToMeeting) as well as tools that facilitate group work like desktop sharing and group calendars (like Daptiv and SocialText). Ninety-two percent of respondents use CTC for work. They are more established in enterprises with respondents leveraging for 46.2 months on average.

The most valued application of OLC is for training education (34%) followed by “to connect with colleagues within our organization” (31%). For CTC, the most valued application is training and education (61%), followed by “to support discussions between geographically distributed employees” (58%) and “to save money on travel” (57%.)

OLC decision-makers are corporate management (32%), CIO/IT (21%) and
“no one,” organically adopted (20%). CTC decisionmakers are slightly different
with CIO/IT leading (35%), followed by corporate management (32%) and HR & training (11%).


Enterprise collaboration is fully embraced by the hightech business sectors as well as the financial and professional services industries. While enterprises are adopting
CTC and OLC at a much higher rate, social networks are closing the gap quickly.
Respondents are using more commercially supplied social networking (SN) platforms, rather than building inhouse. However, LMS vendors have yet to fully capture their current customers and expand market reach. Business use of SN has moved from early innovators to the early majority of adoption. Sales & Marketing now leads the HR & Training function in SN deployment.

While CTC is very established, it is critical to the HR/training function. OLCs are use by most respondents, leading SN in practice. It is clear: When an organization starts leveraging collaboration, it grows very quickly. Respondents join more groups and communities, source more content and expertise. This is a trend that has only begun, as more tools avail themselves and become ubiquitous — like the Internet is today within our work lives.

What do you think? We would like to hear from you. Post your comments at, LinkedIn at Elearning! Magazine Network, Facebook Elearning! Magazine, or tweet to 2elearning.

—This survey also queried the technology currently used by organizations, as well
as specific features sought in social networks, OLC and CTC. To view and download complete study, visit
papers.html for “Enterprise Social Collaboration Research, May 2010.

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