If we can trust Jakob Nielsen and his latest report studying social networking on intranets, then next year is going to be interesting.

Nielsen went straight to various companies -- from Sprint to IBM to Johnson & Johnson -- to see how they are dealing with the increasing expectation that Web 2.0 will drive Enterprise 2.0. The quick answer, they’re not.

Stuck Thinking About Enterprise 2.0

Many organizations are not far along when it comes to implementing and adopting the vulnerable Web 2.0 technologies. But truth be told, they just seem to be stuck in the thinking phase.

When strategies for social media and social networking implementations do emerge, they are often the product on an in-house grassroots movement. Users, not executives, are helping to uncover the perks of using social media in the workplace.

Experimenting with tools before they’ve proven their worth isn’t seen as much as waiting until the platform has been deemed accepted and trusted.

New Media, New Ways of Thinking

Among the 14 companies in 6 countries that he studied, Nielsen found that “social software technologies are exposing the holes in corporate communication and collaboration.” The perception of social media isn’t helping matters either. Social networking platforms from Facebook to Twitter are still considered youthful indiscretions, rather than ways of conducting business.

Ultimately, Nielsen says that it’s not what tool your using, but “the communication shift that those tools enable.” Case in point, Nielsen cites a uniform finding across all of their case studies: organizations are successful with social media and collaboration technologies only when the tools are designed to solve an identified business need.

For companies on the brink of unleashing social enterprise tools, Nielsen offers some guidance, which applies to everything, from CMS to social media:

  • Avoid advertising the new tools as new tools. Instead, simply integrate them into the existing intranet, so that users encounter them naturally.
  • Employ community management to help guide a conversation, rather than control it. Listening to your users will help you determine when to refresh a page and when to resign it from the site.
  • Integration is about organization and communication. Building knowledge is only part of the strategy. Being able to create a feedback loop to bring lessons back to sales, marketing, and other groups responsible for getting things done is another.

Finally, let us not forget that regardless of what iteration of the social web find ourselves, content is still king. Nielsen reminds us that "the tool itself is nothing; the value comes from the strength of its content."