Social Networking in the Enterprise - Part 1

I’ve immersed myself in social networking over the last few months. I’m not particularly interested in gaining online ‘friends’, but I do want to understand the potential of the new tools to meet specific objectives, especially those of enterprises and their staff.

Take Twitter as an example.

  • BTW, if you’d like to follow me on Twitter check here: http://twitter.com/martinss. - follow me and I’ll automatically follow you by way of SocialToo.com).
  • If you look at my score on various Twitter sites I don’t currently score very highly, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned from Twitter ;-)

Originally Twitter’s model was one of personal status updates: “MartinSS is walking the dog”, or some such. And for many purists it should still be that way. There is certainly value in that – I’ve learnt things about colleagues that I would never have done otherwise, and maybe we interact better as a result. In the end though I think there is a limit to how many people I want to know in detail. Interestingly this was reinforced by a recent study that showed humans have an enlarged brain center that is predicted to allow them to follow about 165 people and all of the interactions between those people in detail. That number seems about right to me, or perhaps in my case a bit high ;-)

Twitter is just a tool – it’s how you use and the benefit that you derive that matter most. There is no right way to use Twitter any more than a right way to use a telephone. As another blogger expressed it recently, why should he have to justify using Twitter when he doesn’t have to justify using a phone?

At the other end of the spectrum from the social update users, are people epitomized by Guy Kawasaki. He unabashedly uses Twitter as the most powerful marketing tool he knows. As a result he is one of the most followed individual Twitter users, but he is also one of the most reviled but unapologetic. I find value in his posts. Recently there was a controversy when it was revealed that he uses ‘ghosts’ – other people who make posts for him – which is hardly surprising given the volume of his posts and the nature of his effort. Since his posting formula is quite clear, there is nothing wrong IMO with others following his formula under his direction.

When you start using Twitter you can be overwhelmed with the flow of information. You can select a few people to follow and keep the volume down, but inevitably over time the volume builds. One of the first things you have to learn is to, ‘let it go’. If you don’t read a feed for a period you don’t have to go back and read everything you missed – it isn’t email where people have been conditioned to try and read everything (although that’s breaking down nowadays, but that’s another topic). There is an ongoing ‘conversation’ and if you aren’t ‘in the room’, then you’ll miss it, but you have other things to do, so don’t worry.

Next you have to learn how to filter and manage the flow. There are tools to look only at replies targeted to you, posts related to specific key words, etc.

Kawasaki is using Twitter as a Social Marketplace tool. My interest is more in how tools like it can work in the Social Workplace – do they help people in an enterprise get their jobs done better or faster? And if they do, which tools are best, what features must they have and what other tools must they be connected with?

Currently within Open Text we are working on an enterprise, social networking tool currently codenamed “BlueField”. I’ve used it a lot and really like it, and I think the ways to use it best are becoming clearer.