Social Business, Enterprise Social: Driving Productivity or Driving to Distraction?Social tools have the potential to increase productivity, engagement and communications.

They also hold the potential of turning into an enterprise-wide time suck.

Dave Eggers "We Like You So Much and Want to Know You Better" introduces us to a character Mae who works for a fictitious “social media” company called the Circle. Mae is a new hire and by all accounts a star employee until she finds out she is underperforming due to a low “social” score. Mae goes on to work all sorts of hours posting, following, nudging, smiley faces and, heaven forbid, commenting on all things social about a company.

This excerpt and the novel it came from, "The Circle," could be a good benchmark for what is happening in today’s social enterprise space -- is anyone listening? Or more important -- is anyone actually doing real work on this new frontier?

This conversation is hotly debated at my company. Caveat, we are a SharePoint shop and therefore really look at the “Social Activity Feed” as the “thing” that killed SharePoint 10! That being said, we also have debated -- who and why are we using Social, Yammer, Jive and all the other coveted Social Activity feeds?

Is This Thing On?

We know that many busy professionals are more likely to consume media like social feeds during what we call “casual computing” -- scrolling through new posts while riding the bus or waiting in line for a latte.

What we don't know is where enterprise social news feeds fall in the pecking order of social media. Are people catching up on what they missed in the office while in meetings all day, or are they looking for a quick hit of mental stimulation and a sense of getting "caught up" with their virtual social circles?

Given the choice between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a corporate social news feed, where do users turn first? And just how long would the average user have to stand in line before getting around to reading his or her corporate social news feed?

Cultivating Relevance, Driving Productivity

It can be difficult to consistently deliver relevant, refined communication in the enterprise. Communication departments have been dealing with this challenge for ages.

How do we engage our team and keep them updated? Social collaboration has the potential to be the medium to engage the employee base. Unlike other corporate communication channels, this one enables (in fact, relies on) employee participation.

The fear in the enterprise is that people will say and do things on social media that they would never say or do in "real" life. The corporate culture that your enterprise has spent years cultivating in the "real world" doesn't inherently translate into social media channels.

Virtually every enterprise that has rolled out social media tools can cite missteps -- small groups of employees commandeer the corporate channel for chatter wholly unrelated to work; or employees stage a social media uprising in protest of the new coffee vendor on campus. These examples represent obvious distractions and can be easily dealt with.

But others are far more subtle. My Chief Creative Officer, Byron Baker, recently summed it up perfectly.