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Business moving in on social networking: SocialText

While flying NWA recently, as recently as January, I picked up their WorldTraveler magazine expecting to find the usual travel fodder about exotic vacation spots, spa treatments and where to find the best jambalaya in New Orleans when, to my surprise, the following title caught my eye: Taking care of Business: How social-networking sites can help you win friends/colleagues/contracts and influence people.

I was particularly interested that the words “business” and “social networking” were kindly sharing space within the same title – almost like they were meant to be there together. Hum? In my opinion, these words should rarely, if ever, be separated. Not that I’m all about business, or that I’m not a social person, but I will confess that I’ve grown quite weary of reading about who’s walking their English bulldog, or who’s finally reached that cobweb in the top corner of their office that’s been the bane of their existence for at least days, etc. Sorry mom and probably ex-best friend!

I want to see what these fantastic collaboration tools can do once the worlds of business and social networking truly collide in some fabulous cosmic wonder.

There are sites aimed at business professionals that are doing quite well, but have yet to reach their full potential. For example, in the NWA article, a woman starting a new online fashion marketplace used Facebook’s, “What’s on your mind?” box to solicit expertise from her alma mater’s alumni list, and within minutes had viable, expert offers from her friends/associates to help get her site off and running.

I have many other examples of enterprise-level companies leveraging these tools to their competitive advantage, either through successful marketing campaigns, to solicit honest feedback from customers, and resolving internal issues in a timely way. I’ll get into that in later blogs.

It’s sites like LinkedIn, Socialtext and Jive software that are offering more work-centric networks by limiting the “friends” list to customers and colleagues and even to specific projects. These are the sites that are currently holding my attention.

For now, I’m going to focus on Socialtext and its feature called Wiki Workspaces.

According the Socialtext site, Socialtext Workspace is an easy-to-use enterprise wiki that reduces by 1/3 the time your staff spends searching for information and people every day, and speeds up cycle times in every function across the organization.

1/3 of one’s time is a big number to support. I’m interested to know if any of our readers are finding themselves with that much time on their hands by using Socialtext?

From the Socialtext Workspace page:

How often do you ask yourself, “Where was it I saw that? Who sent it? When did they send it? What was the file called?” When we use e-mail and attached documents to get our work done, topics get fragmented across many places. According to IDC, employees spend up to 25% of their day looking for information. The process of getting work done involves a series of conversations – asking questions and gathering ideas and feedback. Instead of fragmenting a topic across different places, you need a single go-to place for each topic. And your conversations need to be released from the constraints of a document paradigm, so with each interaction you get the full context of the who, what and why.

A single go-place for a topic? That’s Martha-Stewart quality organization. That’s what I need. I’m guessing that’s what most of us could use. Zeus Kerravala, senior vice president with Yankee group, says they [social networking sites] allow users to self create communities for ad hoc or structured collaboration and that they are an important part of enterprise collaboration. Well, say no more, Zeus. We’re with you!

Here’s some of the cool tools Socialtext offers:

  • Socialtext Workspace for group collaboration with tagging, search, notifications, and email integration, all on WYSIWYG-editable web pages.
  • Socialtext People for integrated social networking, following and keeping up with others.
  • Socialtext Dashboard, the personal home page that lets you focus your attention on what’s most important.

Apparently users should stay alert because there more innovative (and commonsensical) ways to incorporate social networking sites into viable collaboration tools for your business coming soon. Goody!

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