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She noted that “with the ability of employees to talk to one another, across time zones, in an ongoing way, better information can be shared with the right people and, if used well, collaboration tools can cut through politics.”

Adapting to the market

Companies such as Basecamp, Jive and Box Inc. are adapting to various markets by offering services to fit the needs of individuals, small businesses and corporations. There are no thick contracts or mandatory time commitments, only monthly payments based on standard fees and the number of users who have access to the software.

Projects can be managed, edited and uploaded on any electronic device that is connected to the Internet. Individuals can work on projects stationed in New York while the project manager is in Hong Kong. Computers and servers are unnecessary because all information is saved on cloud technology. Projects can develop entirely through electronic means as individuals post feedback, commentary and suggestions just as they would on a Facebook page.

With easy-to-read “to-do lists,” employees know what needs to be done even when the boss is not around. In addition, projects are all safely and securely posted so that no idea, file or conversation is lost in a stack of paperwork. Control functions allow project managers to decide who has access to sensitive material and who can edit project developments, giving the software accountability that businesses desire.

Business social media companies say they try to tailor their software and templates to the formats of the social media sites to which workers are already accustomed. It is difficult for an employee to determine whether they are using Twitter or editing their latest multimillion-dollar project.

Finding a niche

While even industry leaders such as Facebook face market skepticism over the best ways to “monetize” their giant customer bases, business social media companies appear to have carved out a money-making niche.

Jive is estimated to be worth $1.29 billion, and total revenue for the industry is expected to well exceed $21 billion by 2015.

Jive’s Mr. Mertz describes the market demand as a breaking dam. “It is no longer about experimenting with our services,” he said. “Companies are finally seeing the value, and it’s becoming a critical part of the way they do business.”

Mr. Rotolo said success or failure of an idea often depends on how a company implements a concept. Just because employees engage in social media at home, in their free time, he said, does not mean they will engage with similar technologies at work.

“Whenever you adopt something new, you are asking employees to create a new behavior,” he said.