As CMSWire readers well know, there's a ton of interest and hype out there about all things social business. Companies are looking to upgrade their existing portals and intranets and want new ways of empowering their workforces. While social offers the promise of new ways to communicate and collaborate that are faster, more transparent, and more efficient than ever, it is hard at best to keep track of all the many things being said and promised.

The challenge lies in making heads and tails of what's really out there. Social can be a vague concept at times, especially as thoughts of Facebook, Twitter and the latest social phenomenon coincide with the glut of social business solutions on the market. Sure, being social would be nice, but what do you really need to do to be social? Let’s take a look at some prevailing myths and assumptions.

1. All You Need is An Activity Stream

There are a lot of fledgling social business solutions out there, but many of them simply look to create Facebook for the enterprise. The problem is that while these solutions offer plenty of social, they don't offer much in terms of actually getting work done. It simply isn't enough to be social for social's sake.

"The big failure of social business is a lack of integration of social tools in the collaborative workflow," noted Laurie Buczek, an enterprise marketing manager for Intel, in her blog. Without smart integration into workflow, all you have is a social tool that sits apart from the applications that your workers actually use.

Adding an activity stream to an organization won't revolutionize how it works unless it's tightly integrated into the workflow.

In a survey by McKinsey and Company, the novelty of Web 2.0 wore off quickly when having to participate in the social community was another task on the checklist of things to do. "Participatory technologies have the highest chance of success when incorporated into a user's daily workflow," the report said.

As blogger Chris Yeh points out, "Social without workflow is like a bathroom without plumbing -- pretty soon, you're going to stop using it." Why did Jive recently spend $20 million to acquire OffiSync? So it could integrate directly into Microsoft Office apps, and thus, the workflow.

2. Social Means the Cloud

Facebook is in the cloud, and so is Twitter, so that must mean that a social business solution also has to live in the cloud, right? While it's true that a large number of solution business solutions are SaaS, there are solutions that live behind the firewall. These solutions offer capabilities and features that can match the cloud, while also leaving you in full control of your data. So as sexy as the cloud might be, it’s not the right environment for everyone.

3. Social Means Monthly Seats

This is a corollary to #2. Many SaaS-based social business solutions require monthly seats that seem reasonable, but can quickly add up if you have a lot of employees. For enterprises with thousands of employees, the math can get pretty daunting here. A key advantage for behind-the-firewall solutions is that they can offer many of the same capabilities of SaaS solutions, but in a way that's more cost-effective over the long run.

4. Social Business is a Fad

Facebook has more than 750 million members, and more than half of all Facebook users log in on any given day. In other words, imagine the entire population of the United States and the United Kingdom logging onto Facebook every day. Twitter has grown to 100 million users in five years, and logs a billion tweets every five days. The generations entering the workforce grew up barely using email, viewing it as slow and inefficient. Simply put, social isn't going away.

Margery Lynn of the Dachis Group is one of many voices who make a compelling case that social is here to stay, both for practical and relationship-building reasons. She maintains that Gen Y will be the driving force of social business adoption, largely by virtue of its sheer size and by the fact that its members are very strongly connected to, and even reliant upon, social networking sites. She cited data from Euro RSCG saying that more than half of Gen Y members rely upon social networks to stay connected with friends. Far from a fad, social applications are now a lifetime necessity for kids who’ve grown up with social media.

Final Thoughts

This is a very exciting time for any of us involved in the social business sector every day. By giving employees the – right -- social tools, you have the genuine potential to improve communication and collaboration, and increase transparency within an organization. However, you have to do social correctly and this is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. As stated earlier, simply doing social for social's sake won't do your organization much good. As with any solution, do your research, scope out any myths or assumptions you hear and just pay attention to what works. I look forward to checking back with you in the coming weeks to provide some more detailed specifics around what works.

Editor's Note: You may be interested in reading: