Social networking as a useful business tool

* Reader feedback on the use of social networking in the workplace

In our last newsletter, we discussed the introduction - whether intentional or not - of social networking tools into the workplace. And we're becoming more convinced than ever that social networks like Facebook can indeed serve a useful function - especially since opportunities exist for features like "private" groups for easy collaboration.

We asked for your thoughts on this issue, and we received this especially thought-provoking response from a reader. He remarked, “I am strong proponent of social networking as a useful business tool both inside and outside the firewall. Let me explain.

“Inside the firewall a social network provides a company with a means to broaden its communication to its employees, suppliers and even customers. There are a number of software developers who have created application platforms that can reside on a company server or be delivered as a SaaS solution that create a social network solution. It sure beats the water cooler and rumor mill as a means of disseminating a wide range of information, from the social to the policy side of any business. It creates connections of like-minded individuals within the company whether their interests lie in line dancing after hours, or solving bottlenecks on production lines. For suppliers and customers these enterprise social networks can be used to improve manufacturing processes, supply delivery, warehousing and distribution, customer support and more.

“Using the more public type of social networks like Facebook or MySpace provides a different dynamic for businesses. These can be great online event venues inviting friends (customers, staff, suppliers and extended family) to activities of interest to the company. And this is just one of so many uses for social networking in the B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) world.

“Think about how social network interest groups can raise collective consciousness, bring people with common interests into the virtual together, impart knowledge and information in a non-business-like way.

“I currently am working with a company that puts social networks into schools to create relevancy for kids who otherwise tune out in the classroom but tune in virtually, reducing dropout rates.”

Let us know what you’re thinking, and we’ll continue to share the thoughts.

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