by October 8, 2010 0 comments

Will social networking kill email? Should you ban social networking sites from the corporate network? These are two questions that aroused heated arguments on a LinkedIn user group we participated in some time ago. In case of the former, most arguments went in favor of email, while in case of the latter, most organizations argued in favor of not banning social networking sites. Only time will tell what finally happens, but one thing is definitely clear-social networking sites have emerged as one of the most popular ways to communicate amongst users. So much so that now there are innovative products and solutions emerging that use social networking concepts in an enterprise environment. Who knows-maybe email will become extinct in the years to come!

Trend 1: Use of social networking technology is gaining popularity amongst organizations
So the trend that’s been hot for quite some time now is the use of social networking technology by organizations. It has shown a new way of communication to organizations. In fact, according to Forrester, Enterprise 2.0 will become a $4.6 billion industry by 2013 and social networking tools will garner the bulk of this money. Forrester has even defined Enterprise 2.0 as the corporate version of Web 2.0. In their view, the key hallmark of Web 2.0 is efficiency for end users. Here, the ultimate goal is to use technologies like Ajax, Rich Internet Applications, blogs, Wikipedia, and social networks to foster productive, advantageous behavior among employees, customers, partners, etc.

What this obviously means is that you can expect a shift in how employees communicate in office. Life is moving beyond basic emails and instant messaging, and social networking is bringing in a new era of communication. So expect souped up corporate directories, internal discussion forums, and more interactive technical support systems to become routine in most corporate networks.
It has also been predicted that the biggest adopters of social networking will be large companies where one cannot just stroll over to the HR or IT folks for a little face time, and where instituting collaborative tools from 37 Signals or Zoho could speed things up when not everyone’s based in the same building. But that doesn’t mean that mid-sized enterprises or even the smaller companies would not be impacted by the social networking phenomenon. They would use a mix of public and private social networking tools, while others might even opt for the Open Source social networking tools like Elgg. You can read more about it at, or in the May 2009 issue of PCQuest.

Trend 2: Collaborative tools are incorporating social networking features
The vendors who’ve been selling collaboration software have received a shot in the arm due to social networking technologies. Most of them have incorporated social networking capabilities in their collaboration software. IBM for instance, has incorporated social networking features in its Lotus software range. There’s Lotus Connections, which allows community building, Wikis, file sharing, mobile access, and even micro-blogging. Similarly, the cloud based LotusLive from IBM has also incorporated several social networking features.

Likewise, Salesforce has come up with ‘Chatter’, a new type of collaboration tool. Unlike traditional collaboration tools that make you do all the work, Chatter brings everything you need to do your job to you-in real time, so you’ll know the second anything changes. At first glance, Chatter looks similar to Facebook. It includes many features of Facebook and Twitter, like status updates and being able to follow people and comment on their posts. But yes, it is private and more secure. In addition to following people, one can follow documents-think product catalogs, pricelists, slide decks, or spreadsheets. Or follow records from Salesforce CRM, including accounts, opportunities, and cases. One can even follow records from other applications, such as project status in a custom-built project management app or the invoice status in a back-end financial application such as SAP. Recently the online CRM provider also introduced Chatter Mobile for iPad, iPhone and the new iPod Touch, Google Android and RIM BlackBerry. With Chatter Mobile, users will be able to monitor their Chatter feeds, including posts from colleagues and alerts from apps, as well as post status updates and comment on relevant conversations — all from their mobile device.
Similarly, Microsoft is also building social networking features in its own products. The Outlook Social Connector for instance, allows you to connect to your Facebook account and get the latest updates about your friends and read the recent posts. You can read more about it here

Trend 3: Open Source Social Networking Solutions on the rise
If you don’t want to join an existing public social networking site or pay for a commercial collaboration solution with social networking features? Then you have a range of Open Source social networking solutions to choose from. A simple search for the words ‘social
networking’ turned up more than 8,000 results on, the most popular site for downloading Open Source software. All of this isn’t of course social networking software for community building, so you’ll have to scan through and find the right one for your needs.

Trend 4: Micro-Blogging for businessWe’ve all heard of using using Twitter for doing business, and quite a few organizations are in fact doing so. But how about moving out of the publicly available micro-blogging site and using your own private micro-blogging site? There are several companies working on introducing this capability for enterprises. Recently a USA based company, Yammer announced a new platform and applications for enterprise social networking, which is supposed to act as an application platform that will transform its enterprise microblogging solution into a full-fledged enterprise social network. Employees in a company can sign up for free, and you can build your own private networks in it and choose whose messages you’ll receive by following people and joining groups.
Similarly, another Denmark based company, Podio recently came out of stealth mode. Podio is not a ‘Twitter for business’. Instead, it calls it self a ‘social work platform’, wherein you can build your own applications, which would work the way you want to. It will let you do everything from brainstorming new ideas to managing activities, tasks, customers, decisions, meetings, and even a team blog. The service is currently in an invite-only private beta.

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