WPC 2013: SMBs Embrace External Social Tools for Business, Even With the Risks

Companies both large and small utilize social tools differently, leading to very different selling motions and partner opportunities. By Matt Whitlock

According to a new Microsoft sponsored survey published during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston, companies both large and small utilize social tools differently, leading to very different selling motions and partner opportunities.

The study, which touched approximately 10,000 end users across various countries, showed that while small businesses do use intranets and other internal collaborative tools, a good number of SMBs are also leveraging external, public social tools for business use. Among the uses noted in the study were collaboration among teams and with clients, research, and keeping tabs on competitors. SMBs are aware of the risks, touting concerns over lost productivity, company image, security, and data loss.

Large businesses, however, tend to deploy internal tools according to the data gathered.

“Social collaboration technologies represent a growing opportunity for partners with strong demand from end users at both large companies and SMBs,” said Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of the Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft. “However, each segment uses these technologies in different ways, with SMBs seeing public FTP/cloud storage, external social networks, blogging platforms while large companies clearly prefer intranets, team sites and videoconferencing."

Read more in Jon Roskill's blog post.

Not to discredit Microsoft's efforts here, but wasn't this already obvious without the in-depth study? Until recently, enterprise-grade internal collaborative tools were generally difficult to deploy or overpriced for small teams. Public social tools are free, broadly available, and likely already in use by staff. Plus, as the work/personal life barriers tend to blur in smaller company environments, it makes sense that end-users would prefer to use tools they're already using anyway.

This may be a temporary phenomenon though, as Microsoft points out there is a big effort to providing better, cost effective tools for SMB customers (insert Office 365 pitch here). As those tools become more widely available, the SMBs reliance on public social tools will likely fall out of favor over time.

Let's here from you in the comments below. Do your SMB customers prefer private or public social tools? Are you seeing any trends one way or another?