This content is part of the Essential Guide: How SAP is handling the social media explosion

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What is the difference between social media and collaboration?

Social media and collaboration overlap, but are not the same. Unified communications expert Dave Michels explains the difference between the two.

Is collaboration the same thing as social media? I hear the term social collaboration and wonder what the difference...

is, if there is any at all. What are some examples of each?

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Our industry is plagued with loosely defined terms. The boundaries between a key system; a private branch exchange, or PBX; and a unified communications (UC) platform are fuzzy. Unified communications systems tend to include voice, presence, video and an integration capability. The terms UC and collaboration are sometimes used interchangeably. The key difference is that UC tends to focus on the capabilities or technology, while collaboration tends to focus on the desired outcome. Seamless collaboration has become important due to the increasing popularity of distributed teams. Collaboration aims to reduce the limitations associated with distance by focusing on real-time conferencing solutions and desktop sharing. Additionally, many other industries are embracing collaboration to enable concurrent access and editing within applications.

Social media and collaboration overlap, but social media tends to focus more on asynchronous communications. It also facilitates collaboration among distributed teams. Consider the exclusive nature of email communication, which only goes to addressed parties. Sometimes, however, those copied on the email become more disruptive than productive. However, there's risk associated with dropping someone off a conversation. Social media puts the onus of participation and inclusion on the receiver. Participants can communicate more openly and invite participation and broader collaboration. Social media is a powerful means of interaction, and typically manifests itself in the forms of blogs, wikis and social network services such as Facebook or Yammer.

A definition by Assistant Site Editor Margaret Jones explains the term social collaboration as not only work carried out by more than one person, but also the communications tools used to help employees work together.

For more information on social media and collaboration:

  • Effective enterprise social media strategies
  • Social collaboration industry practices
  • Creating 'collaborative communications' with UC, social media and collaboration


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