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This question is inspired by Hearsay Social CTO Steve Garrity's presentation on How to Match Speeds Between Your Enterprise and the Social Networks from the recent E2 Innovate conference in Santa Clara.
"Facebook changes every single day," with Twitter and LinkedIn keeping almost the same pace -- far different from the steady, measured pace of enterprise system development and implementation. "Move fast and break things" is a company motto at Facebook, he pointed out.
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"There's almost nothing in the enterprise today that you can think of as moving fast and breaking things," Garrity said. "What we've got here is a mismatch."
The unspoken sales pitch behind his description of the challenge was that you might want a cloud software partner like Hearsay to worry about these issues on your behalf. But whether you delegate the burden or take responsibility for it yourself, you need to be aware of it as a fundamental challenge of doing business on and through the public social networks.
The June E2 show in Boston featured a similar presentation from Patrick Stokes, Chief Product Officer at Buddy Media (now part of Salesforce.com), which went into more technical detail on the varying implementations of "standard" social software APIs.
Garrity was more concerned with the way features brands come to rely on can go away overnight -- particularly on Facebook. A prime example would be the big change in the way Facebook page tabs worked before and after the introduction of the Timeline layout for brand pages. Page tabs attracted a lot of attention and investment when they could be used as a sort of landing page, prompting users to the "Like" the page or tempting with them a special offer. Page administrators could define multiple tabs, including a default tab visitors would land on if they had not yet clicked the Like button. And then, one day, the ability to define default tabs went away and tabs in general became more buried in the new layout.
"Now, nobody's putting money into tabs anymore -- they're just not worth it," Garrity said.
Facebook is at least trying to do a better job of giving developers some warning, Garrity said. For example, On Nov. 7 Facebook issued its latest 90-day warning of breaking changes to its APIs -- seven changes with the potential to break existing applications -- that will go into effect in February.
To cope with those changes, social businesses (or their software partners) need to be continually on the lookout for such announcements, while also watching out for unannounced changes or glitches that can break applications. Facebook's approach literally means it's willing to break things occasionally and fix them later, rather than taking a more conservative approach that avoids risk.
If you want your enterprise systems to keep pace, "you need to be thinking about continuous deployment and agile development," Garrity said. "I think we'll see everything move toward the social networking end of the spectrum over the next five years. We'll get better at moving fast without breaking things." Still, he added, "we'll never get to the full consumer velocity with enterprise apps."
In other words, this matching speeds business is going to be touch-and-go.
Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)