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How Online Social Networks Benefit Organizations

For any employee, manager, founder, et al, I strongly suggest that you read what Ms. Kimball and Mr. Rheingold have to say about social networks and try to figure out (call us) how to get started using one in your orgainzation. I think it is great that Mr. Rheingold back in 2000 was championing social networks in organizations. The funny thing is, it took a bunch of kids on myspace to bust social networks wide open. From what I can remember, the same scenario played out with the adoption of instant messaging.

Check it out for yourself, here's a demo of an enterprise blogging platform

By Lisa Kimball and Howard Rheingold - ( online social networks. )

Online social networks are webs of relationships that grow from computer-mediated discussions. The webs grow from conversations among people who share a common affinity (e.g., they work for the same company, department, or in the same discipline) and who differ in other ways (e.g., they are in different locations, keep different hours, specialize in different disciplines, work for different companies). When the people are distributed across time and space, then these conversations need to take place online, over an intranet or private internet forum.

Within a company, a well-tuned online social network can enhance the company's collective knowledge and sharpen its ability to act on what people know in time to be effective. We have long recognized that this kind of network is critical to an organization. Creating these opportunities to connect is often the stated or unstated purpose of facilitated off-site meetings and other communication initiatives. However, the half-life of connections made at these meetings was very short until online technology provided us with a means to support the network over time.

Social networks grow from the personal interactions of human beings over time, as well as from from the technological infrastructure that connects those humans. This means that growing a successful online social network requires social know-how as well as technical expertise. Interactions include those that take place face-to-face, via telephone, online, and even via things we send each other in the postal mail.

Thoughtfully planned and knowledgeably implemented online social networks can enable an organization to:

    1. Create an early warning system.
    2. Make sure knowledge gets to people who can act on it in time.
    3. Connect people and build relationships across boundaries of geography
      or discipline.
    4. Provide an ongoing context for knowledge exchange that can be far
      more effective than memoranda.
    5. Attune everyone in the organization to each other's needs – more
      people will know who knows who knows what, and will know it faster.
    6. Multiply intellectual capital by the power of social capital, reducing
      social friction and encouraging social cohesion.
    7. Create an ongoing, shared social space for people who are geographically
      dispersed.
    8. Amplify innovation – when groups get turned on by what they can
      do online, they go beyond problem-solving and start inventing together.
    9. Create a community memory for group deliberation and brainstorming
      that stimulates the capture of ideas and facilitates finding information
      when it is needed.
    10. Improve the way individuals think collectively – moving from knowledge-sharing
      to collective knowing.
    11. Turn training into a continuous process, not divorced from normal
      business processes.
    12. Attract and retain the best employees by providing access to social
      capital that is only available within the organization.

Bonus link, Collaborating using social software.

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