Meredith Skeels and Jonathan Grudin have written a paper (to be published in GROUP 2009) that examines the use of social networking sites within a large organization. They present interesting demographic data on who uses Facebook vs. LinkedIn (among other such tools), and discuss some interesting findings in how these tools are used (and perceived) in the workplace.In particular, the authors make an interesting comparison between adoption patters of social networking software and email and IM in the corporate arena. For example, they found that social networking tools helped strengthen weak social ties in the workplace, but that it is difficult to measure the ROI. There are also tensions around personal vs. professional uses of the tools that have not been resolved through interface design of existing tools.
It will be interesting to see if these pressures to integrate personal and professional social networks in some contexts but keep them segregated in others will give rise to new tools or interfaces. Given that is unlikely that social network sites will allow their data to be exported, the onus for developing these tools falls on Facebook and LinkedIn. Will they rise to the challenge?