Bringing Social Networking to the Workplace

Social Networking refers to networking with your friends on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites. However, companies like Microsoft, IBM and Socialtext have brought the concept of these networking sites to your work place.

So, how would this new concept of social networking work? Would it be sharing your personal information on another website, where you will have your colleagues in your friend circle? It surely wouldn’t mean logging on to your Twitter account and uploading your vacation photos while tweeting away to glory!

Workplace based social networking tools developed by Microsoft, IBM and Socialtext can help organize and locate the internal organizational data in a more efficient and easy way. It can also help employees find the right colleague to help them complete a certain task. This can help boost productivity and reduce idleness by better sharing what everyone is doing.

Microsoft and Socialtext employees are now allowed to maintain their personal profile page, in  Facebook including their names, photograph, designation, contact information, educational background, the college they attended, birthday, hobbies and thumbnail account of their experience with the organization!

In the office each user is represented as a “friend” in Facebook, however in Sharepoint users are denoted as “Collegues.” These kinds of  emulations are another popular features of social networking websites such as Facebook, where workers can type a real time status update on their profile page! This can let other colleagues know what they are up to. Examples would be, “In a meeting with Danny” or “On a dinner break, be back in 30 minutes.” One could on the other hand be likely to receive help, advice and support from other colleagues on a project that you’re involved in. A worker may have a status update, “Working on Project X, need suggestions” and for all it’s worth, he may receive several helpful suggestions from his colleagues, enabling him to do his job better!

In several organizations, workers work away from office and do not get the chance to interact with regular employees, ask for suggestions and share best practices. Take the example of IBM, where  more than forty percent employees are working away from office, some scattered around the world.

Social networking has proved crucial, said Carol Sormilic, IBM’s vice president of social media.  She further adds that when IBM launched their official social networking site, a service, which Carol depicts as “IBM’s version of Facebook,” she said, “You wouldn’t believe how quickly it took off. It demonstrates how people wanted to touch each other.”

Orthodox means of internal communications at the workplace would be the company’s Intranet. But the new software networking tools are intended to be less hierarchical and allow employees to explore and build their own connections with co-employees. Socialtext says that when colleagues sharing more about themselves, it builds trust in a company, which leads to the right people working together.

“The explosive growth of social networking in the consumer space has created a sea change in readiness in the enterprise,” said Eugene Lee, CEO of Socialtext, which was founded in 2002. “I would say that Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have had a much bigger impact on the readiness of companies and employees to use social media at work, than the somewhat later entrance of the larger companies such as Microsoft and IBM.”

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