Often individuals in society use their networks to advance their knowledge of happenings and events. This social networking paradigm is embedded into our society but the playing field has evolved and online social networking platforms are here to stay. What can be curtain is that we are greatly influenced by these social circles -increasingly the scopes of our networks are expanding. There are abundance of social networking platforms available that offer different purposes, and have emergent cultures, and social norms. The influence that social networking have on business activities is full of uncertainties. Resistance to the adoption of networks is anti-productive in a business setting because networks are powerful resource that fuel business growth and opportunity. There’s a conception that many popular platforms are for individual networking development. This is somewhat true. Many of the popular social networking platforms such as Facebook, MySpace, twitter and even LinkedIn are individually focused. However, increasingly attention has been on how businesses can tap into these resources. We discuss this by separating each type of network.
The first point that has to be acknowledged is that social networking platforms can be anti-productive unless they deliver of the business objectives. Networking is apart of business operations though it is only now, as the web 2.0 matures, we can see the online social networks being transferred into the business activities. There are three methods of leveraging social networking around business activities, external networks, internal networks and mash-ups.
The nature of the work often highlights what type of online social networking should be conducted. Sales and consulting do leverage external social networking. For those who require research and client sourcing, Linkedin can be helpful when developing a contact list. The ease of finding specific company employees and their position can encourage obtrusive behaviour because information is easily sourced by people external to the organisation. This concerns many professional who have a Linkedin account or have considered activating one. This is a negative impact of this open network for business professionals but individuals who provide employee status also have the promise of network opportunities. So this really depends on what type of returns an individual would like form an external social networking platform and if it will bring benefits at an individual level and/or a corporate level.
The risk of social networking being obtrusive and jeopardising the privacy of professionals could be on the increase. But it won’t go away so it’s no good ignoring it. Gist is a new social networking platform with all your social networks information centralised and allows people to network over status feeds, news and updates. However, forget about privacy, Gist sources information about people in your contact list and connects you with their social networking profiles and recent blogs without requiring any permissions. Gist also allows people to contribute to external profiles, so if you’re not so popular this could be a problem as some data relies on “crowd sourcing” to keep profiles up-to-date. Gist is available on as a plugin for Gmail, Outlook and mobile devices.
A more walled garden approach, internal networks have been very popular for larger enterprises and have utilised the internal social networking to improve communication information flow within the organisation. Beehive has been introduced with success at IBM. They have experienced greater collaboration and improved team dynamics because of the extra socialising that is taking place between employees.
“You cannot create a culture of innovation without creating a culture of collaboration – and at its core is creating a culture of trust with people you may never have met,” says Liam Cleaver, Program Director, IBM Jam Program Office (Office of the CIO).
The research that IBM has surrounding social networking using Beehive as a research method has received interest from the business community. The buzz (created by IBM) is very much a clever marketing and PR exercise with a truth that social networking is the way of the future. Why? Well, the study of this adoption is highlighted in the IBM research model. The outcomes of an effective social media platform are predictable because there are similarities to popular external social networking. Fostering employee networks to provide synergy throughout the organisation is recognized as a valuable resource and if structured skillfully can be utilized extremely successfully for organisational social cohesiveness.
Other ways that social networks are incorporated into the workspace is using plugins for Outlook. As outlook is a widely used email client for business application and there have been developments to improve the outlook inbox environment. Outlook compared to the web2.0 email clients available is very outdated but using these new pluggins can be an effective and inexpenses means of introducing social networking. Xobniand new to the outlook client mesh-in are two plugins that incorporate the social with the business whist helping organize the fragment of emails. This method is a simply low risk alternative to introducing a fully integrated system. As is it a mesh-up it allows external networks to be visible but because it is located in outlook it mixes a very common business tool with some very common social networks. My two cents, is that this type of integration of social networking would be anti-productive. Email clients don’t necessarily have to house the social network. It’s also not good for employee productivity to be spending more time in an email client. Exchanging email and social networking have loose ties and we will probable see more mash-ups of email clients and social networking. However, I have used Xobni and although on occasions it can be useful for periodically organising emails but the social aspect of it is quite limited. Plus when I am in my email client, I am emailing and not socially engaged. Yet it is highly likely that two will not remain separate.