We are about to enter an era as fundamental in its impact on businesses and organizations as the shift to computerized records from paper systems or the shift from paper brochures to web sites.

Social technologies—think in terms of using tools like Facebook and Twitter for marketing, but also in terms of using these kinds of technologies inside your organization as a replacement for email—are about to revolutionize the management of company information.

This revolution creates challenges—and opportunities—for organizations of all sizes. Here are some tips to avoid being left behind.

1. Start experimenting

There are people in your organization— take my word for it— who are way more knowledgeable than your IT people about how to use social technologies. Set them free.

2. Provide guidance on what’s acceptable 

Set some guidelines on how you expect employees to behave in the social world. But don’t go nuts; this isn’t a 30 page document. IBM’s social policy is one page long.

3. Revise email methods

Start thinking about replacing as much of email as you can with a structure more friendly to cooperation. Sending countless emails around your organization with meaningless cc’s and bcc’s and repetitive attachments is not a way to tap into the intelligence in the heads of your employees. Get going on an alternative.

4. Listen to your lawyers, but don’t let them tie you in knots

Lawyers for the most part hate the implications of social media, particularly when it comes to the possibility of discovery. They have valid concerns that need to be heard, but don’t let them play a “NO” trump card.

As social technologies take root in the culture and in organizations, they will begin to become something that is not only “interesting,” but also critical to the transformation of the business process. And to also the competitiveness and profitability of companies. Don't be left behind.