Today’s guest post is by Allen Mireles

Recently I posted about the explosion of growth we’re seeing in social networks.

And how those of us who’ve learned to use the social web are called on to be patient–with the scores of people still trying to figure it all out.

Even when they’re being annoying because they don’t know any better.

I was thinking of the familiar usages of the social web.

Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube.

I hadn’t given much thought to challenges faced by corporations and organizations as they develop internal social strategies and tools to help achieve business objectives.

Then a friend tweeted me about my post and pointed out the similarity between what I described and what he had experienced as a consultant: Working in Enterprise 2.0 settings with boatloads of newbies struggling to get the hang of the internal social systems they were supposed to be using.

E2.0 (or Enterprise 2.0), and its attendant software, represents a market predicted by Forrester to hit more than six billion by 2016.

Internal integration of social tools is becoming more and more common, according to Pehong Chen in a 2011 Forbes post, as “…having an enterprise social network is no longer a fascination of early adopters. It is now an essential component of the enterprise.”

The Engaged Enterprise

The promise of E2.0 is the ability for organizations to crowdsource ideas from within and collaborate easily, by interconnecting teams and building on shared knowledge. The potential is to be able to connect across geographic boundaries, to tear down silos between departments, and to make information easily available throughout the organization.

The reality of E2.0 is turning out to be somewhat less glorious. According to a study done by the Social Business Council and released as the “Current State of Social Engagement Inside the Large Enterprise,” the challenge with introducing social collaboration software is not limited to the new technology itself, but rather with introducing new modes of behavior for corporate employees.

People are not always interested in learning new practices, or if they are, they may feel tentative in their initial forays into a new platform or the use of new tools. So the resistance can be huge and the challenge is, in large part, in convincing the non-enthusiasts to try, and keep trying. And then in dealing kindly and patiently with them as they learn. (See what I did there? Tied it back to the earlier post?)

And don’t try to hinder interest in non-business conversations and sharing.

Keep the ‘Social’ in Social Media

Steve Radick, vice president public relations at Cramer-Krasselt, describes it, “Unfortunately, “social” seems to have become almost a dirty word in the workplace, conjuring up images of employees whittling away their time on Facebook, talking to their boyfriend on the phone, or taking a three hour lunch break.”

Let’s all agree now to stop trying to take the social out of social media. “Social” interactions not only need to be okay, they need to be encouraged and rewarded.

Radik posits that for the unenthused, a more comfortable way to present the value of learning to use social is to present it as a safe way to learn social media and social networking. He recommends the unenthusiastic and the newbies practice on the enterprise internal forums and blogs and wikis and Twitter-wannabe tools to get the hang of a totally new way of communicating, before taking that next, kind of scary, step into the outside.

The benefit to the organization is the training and development of employees who become both capable and comfortable communicating on the social web on behalf to the enterprise. They become engaged – and experienced – in the internal social networks, and eventually take that comfort and knowledge to the external social web.

Leave the LOLCats Alone

Radick says,“If you want to create a vibrant culture of collaboration, you need to be okay with pictures of LOLCats, posts about the NFL playoffs, arguments about Apple and Android, and criticism of company policies.”

Allow people to be social and they may find something they can fall in love with–or at least like and use and become engaged with their fellow employees.

That there are and will continue to be E2.0 enthusiasts is evidenced by the emerging conferences, research papers, and blog posts–as well as the increasing sales of E2.0 software. This is the direction of the future for large organizations.

However it is worthwhile to note the process will take time, patience, and social skills–on everyone’s behalf.

Allen Mireles is vice president at Arment Dietrich and is based outside of Toledo. She has diverse expertise in healthcare IT, manufacturing, and education. You can follow her on Twitter at allenmirelesadd her to your circles on G+, link to her on LinkedIn, or friend her on Facebook.