Workplace-Focused Social Networks Gain Ground

At first thought it may seem like the last thing your enterprise needs, but according to The New York Times, custom social networks to be used exclusively within the workplace are proliferating.

The logic is simple: Employees already know and love things like Facebook and Twitter, and the way such tools facilitate communication can be leveraged in the office to create a more cohesive and dynamic workforce.

But there are challenges. First and foremost is getting people interested enough to participate in a useful way. Second is the opposite challenge: making sure people who do  participate don’t overshare or go off-topic, thereby wasting everyone else’s time. The theory is that do it right, and productivity can be enhanced as meetings and teleconferences are avoided. Meantime, new ideas will grow and spread organically as online conversations are shared.

Anyone interested in testing the waters has options:

One of the biggest providers of corporate social networks is Salesforce.com. It said 80,000 companies use its corporate social network, Chatter, up from around 10,000 when it was introduced a year ago. Yammer said its service is used by more than 100,000 companies, up from around 80,000 a year ago. SAP, Cisco Systems, Socialtext, Jive Software and SuccessFactors are also pushing their products. Last month, VMware joined the list when it acquired Socialcast, one of the earlier networking services.

Costs vary. Salesforce and Yammer both offer free versions, but Salesforce charges $15 per usermonthly for its premium network. Yammer’s costs $5 per user a month.

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