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Salesforce.com and Social Networking at Work: Do We Have To?

With sincere apologies to Dana Carvey, it's time for the return of the Grumpy Old Blogger.

So, here's what I hate about social networking. Consider the following scenario, one I've experienced many times. I see a friend I haven't seen in, say, a month. Maybe two. And I ask how she's doing.

"Well," the reply snaps back, "if you ever looked at Facebook, you'd know that I went to California last month."

"Oh, really? Where in California?" I inquire with half-hearted interest.

"It was all on Facebook. I put up all of my pictures, and I had a link to my blog. You need to get on Facebook once in a while!"

Really? Do I? Or could we just have a pleasant conversation about this right now? Do I not get to hear about the trip to California because I wasn't compulsively combing Facebook every day, waiting with bated breath for updates and clicking through a bunch of fuzzy photos? Is that how it works now? We can only communicate virtually - - and usually one-to-many or many-to-one -- and any attempt to chat in person about something that happened more than two hours ago is just an annoyance. Get on Facebook, will you?

No, I won't. At least not very often. Back in my day, people chatted with each other face-to-face, or they talked on the phone, or they e-mailed. (Actually, back in my real day, we didn't have e-mail, either.) We didn't have fancy "social networking" with walls and Tweets and mobile apps. We could actually avoid each other if we wanted to and only communicate when we felt like it. And we liked it! We loved it!

Actually, other than talking on the phone (not my favorite pastime), I did love it. I'm still an e-mail guy, even though it's the 8-track cassette of communication. I love a long chat at the pub or in my living room (which, I suppose, would be vinyl). But I'm kind of ambivalent toward social media, with its weird unwritten rules and subtle pressures and little hashtag codes everywhere, and with its unabashed, childlike, look-at-me ethos. Hey, I told you I was grumpy.

At least there's the office, where I'm not supposed to look at Facebook, and where I only use Twitter when it's absolutely required. Work is a great excuse for ignoring people online. (Yes, I realize that most people use social networking to waste time at work, but again: grumpy.)

Now, though, Salesforce.com apparently wants me, my employer and everybody else in the business world to embrace social networking...at work. Seriously? Apparently, outspoken -- and often hilarious -- Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff has some sort of vision that involves companies embracing social networking (sensible enough) and employees forming social networks at work.

Oh, great. So, I'm going to have to check some sort of work Facebook now to know what's going on at 1105 Media? (Probably not, actually, as we don't use Salesforce.com -- as far as I know.) Instead of just talking to a colleague or sending or receiving an e-mail about a project or a meeting or whatever, I'll have to check a "news feed" or somebody's "wall" or "Tweet stream"?

Brilliant. I'm very much looking forward to this technology becoming pervasive so that my boss can ask me where a story is and I can reply, "What story?" And he can say, "The one I assigned you on your work Facebook wall that you didn't check." To be fair, my actual boss wouldn't do that. But you see what I mean.

Salesforce.com is a great company in a lot of ways. Its pure-cloud approach is pretty innovative and definitely refreshing. It walks the cloud walk while most other companies just talk the talk -- and not even all that well, at that. Benioff is a quote machine, and his company executes superbly. There's a lot to admire about Salesforce.com.

But please, please, Salesforce.com, spare me -- spare us all -- the tyranny of making social networking part of our everyday work experience. The curmudgeons among us will be forever grateful.

Do you want to mess with social networking at work? Say why or why not in the comments section below or at lpender@rcpmag.com

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Posted by Lee Pender on August 31, 2011 at 11:57 AM