How can business reap the benefits of organic social networking?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The long term benefits of social networking for enterprise are well known and have already been discussed in detail. There's team building, leveraging your knowledge base, early adoption and cross team discussion to name a few. For a long time there has been two sides of the fence to social networking in business; there are those who do and those that don't. The don't group is made up of several smaller groups; the we don't know how to do it, the we don't want to ruin our reputation or the we don't believe in the benefits groups.

For a long time I believed that the second group were just poorly educated and if they could see the light (or just give it a try) they would not only be convinced of the benefits, but they could reap the rewards of an open blogging policy. But for larger size outfits this approach is just too unwieldly, the size of the dinosaur is too great and the idea of testing the waters is hard with such a large foot. For smaller sized operations it's not viable to crowd source and hard to find passionate bloggers (even in the IT industry) to write about work in their own free time.

So how can small and large business still leverage the benefits of social networking outside of company blogging while still reaping the benefits for the business? The solution lies in employee involvement outside of the business. Already employees are connecting via Twitter, Linked In, myspace and other social networking outside of business hours. These organically formed social networking groups and activities can be taken advantage of (with permission) and business wide networking can be seen as an extension of these organic groups.

Each of these sites has readily available APIs that can be used to link groups and information from each of your employees. The information that each employee is adding online has already been made publicly available. Does your employee already blog? Ask if you can provide their RSS feed to the rest of the company. Are there employees that tweet regularly? Why not have a company wide aggregator of this activity. As with all online activity the good quality links can be pushed higher and the chatter will be ignored. This large amount of activity that is already happening in the public arena could be shared within, and for the better material without.

Be brave, be passionate about your employees and reach out. Not by sticking your foot in it, but by gently wading in.
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