Even though quite a number of companies regard social media as dangerous, I think companies have in fact a lot going for them as a suitable environment for social software.
Because social software tools all work from the same principles:
1 they thrive on large volumes of data and information (Flickr and delicious e.g. only come into their own when the volume involved is big enough)
2 they thrive when existing social networks adopt the same tool (your fraternity in Facebook, Wikipedians doing wiki maintenance, your blog roll)
Social software works well given these conditions because these tools are the internet’s response to the enormous volume of information the internet helped create. Social software is the answer to the internet by the internet.
The quantitative change in information availability (going from scarcity to abundance) leads to qualitative changes in our information strategies. Social filtering is one of those changed information strategies. Social software caters to social filtering.
Companies are excellent environments for social filtering.
Because they sit on large volumes of data and information, going largely unused.
Because organisations are a group of people with shared goals and tasks.
In short, companies are their own objects of sociality as well as their own user group.
An information manager of a large internationally operating Dutch company told me the other day that they had given a number of their professionals access to their business intelligence data. Because they were gathering so much data nobody really looked at for lack of good questions to ask of the dataset. The professionals put the data to good use, because they could formulate the right questions. They were adding social structures and context to the data. Basically adding social software design principles to a large volume of data.
The information manager was surprised by this, saying something like “and I have these BI specialists who never came up with this kind of use for the data”.
I wasn’t surprised. Throwing social relationships at large volumes of data works. We see it in our feed-readers, presence streams, yasn’s, wiki’s, and tag-clouds every day.