An interesting question crops up time and again: Will today's major social networks turn to the enterprise market in the future? Business-oriented social networks are already popular among organizations and companies. But as Facebook and Google+ run out of markets to grow into, they will need to find more growth areas from within, and the enterprise is one big market ripe for the picking.
Technology evangelist Robert Scoble thinks that Google+ and Facebook are headed toward the enterprise social networking business sometime in the future. Speaking at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, CA, Scoble says there is big potential for the likes of Google+ and Facebook for use as internal corporate communication networks. Popular public social networks are already being used by professionals as communication tools, whether or not their respective companies already run their own enterprise social network, so there's no reason for either Google or Facebook to not turn to these markets.
Social Networking as an Extension of Google Apps
In terms of integrating enterprise services with social networking, Google may be in the best position, with its enterprise Google Apps offering and Google+. Google's SaaS email, documents, chat and web CMS platform will be a good mix with a private implementation of Google+. Google may already be looking into attracting businesses into joining Google+, although not as a private network. The social networking service recently opened its doors to business use, with the introduction of Google+ Pages for brands and businesses. As a private social network, the Circles way of sharing content and sorting friends might fit perfectly with the needs of a private social network.
More Than Just Numbers
Meanwhile, for Facebook, the need to consider private business-oriented networks might come as more of a necessity than innovation. Facebook is already at about 800 million active users and growing. But at some point, Facebook will run out of an Internet-using population to expand into. As such, the company will need to focus within its existing user base and provide more value-added services to remain relevant. Scoble said that Facebook is "going to have to convince people to do more on the service," which will be a smarter way to make money than simply growing its audience.
In the end, it's a matter of finding the right timing, hiring the right people and doing it the right way. Scoble thinks Facebook will have an advantage in terms of hiring the right talent to convert the network into an enterprise-grade offering. Until then, Google and Facebook will need to heavily invest in turning their networks into an enterprise-collaboration platform, which may be best beta-tested through internal use. The prediction: Google is likely to launch Google+ for enterprise by 2012 and Facebook by early 2013.