If you are interested in corporate uptake of the services that let people connect with one another to share experience, knowledge and ideas, it might be smart to come up with another term than "social networking." Why? How about this for a knee-jerk quote (more-or-less direct):
"Social networking is big in the world and huge with the 20 somethings (or my teenagers), but I am not sure of the utility [at SuperMegaGlobalCorp]."
The context was a suggestion that social networking is getting lots of play and that SuperMegaGlobalCorp should pay attention. *sigh*
In talking about this with a friend, the issue is clearly that the popular media have pigeon-holed social networking as that-thing-kids-do when they are goofing around or otherwise not working. So, people hear the term in the context of business and there is negative reaction because it's something that isn't of business value. No amount of examples and arguments otherwise can get over the original bias.
What to do? Talk about it different ways, give it a different name. Talk about the value to the business. Because social networking covers a lot of ground, it makes sense to break down the value into more specific elements. Some possibilities
Are you interested in the idea of people being able to find experts within the company? Talk about "inferred expertise" that you can discover through tools that tell you what ideas people are interested in.
Tired of your mailbox filling up with out-of-office notifications and not finding people where you left them? Talk about real-time status indicators.
Tired of your mail system getting clogged with massive files sent to everyone? Talk about the value of easy-to-use file sharing, potentially even tools that let people edit together.
Frustrated that people who should be communicating with each other aren't? Talk about the opportunity for community-building.
There have been a couple of things posted recently on justifying these projects to CEO's. Beth Dunn talked about marketing with Winning over executives to social media marketing. Matt Hodgson talked about ROI for Social Computing: Work 2.0, Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0. Chris Brogan provided Twelve ways to sell social media to your boss. And I have a similar article percolating, though this may substitute for it.
I know this commentary isn't unique. How else do people talk about these tools and the value behind them without talking about "social networking?"