Social intranets grow faster than you probably think – only Facebook reached the first million users faster than IBM Connections

When discussing digital social networks, the discussion easily circles around Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and, more recently, Pinterest. It comes pretty naturally. They are all public and visible for all.

Social tools within organizations – often called Social Intranets or Collaboration tools – don’t make it as easily into the discussion. They are not in plain view, hidden behind firewalls full of information that companies and organizations naturally are unwilling to let loose externally.

The happier was I recently when I laid my hands on the chart below, as it shows that only Facebook reached the first million users faster than one of the leading social intranet platforms – IBM Connections. LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter needed considerably more months to reach their first million users.

I might just as well anticipate a couple of obvious questions:

  1. The IBM Connections numbers refer to users outside of IBM.
  2. The IBM Connections numbers are based on “Authorized users of licenses sold”. I.e. not only licenses sold.
  3. Arguably the different platforms reached their first million users at different points in time, but that does not change the point I want to make: exciting stuff is going on behind the firewalls and it’s probably happening faster than most people think

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Naturally there are factors that prevent direct comparison, but not enough to change that main point of mine. While the decision to use a public social network is taken individually, the implementation of a social intranet is made for you, also which platform to use. Still, it is the individual employee who chooses to make use of it or to keep working the old fashioned way. On the other hand, the decision to join a public social network may well be instantaneous, while a decision on a corporate social network takes a long time and includes financial aspects we don’t need to think of as consumers.

When I lectured at a course on Social Intranets given by the Swedish Association of Communication Professionals (Sveriges Kommunikatörer) on 9 May, I had the opportunity to listen to the moderator, Kicki Strandh who used an expression that caught me instantly:

Social Intranets are what we hoped Intranets would become

Just think of all the predictions of free-flowing information, inspiration and collaboration or about the open corporation we heard some 10-15 years ago when intranets started appearing. Do they apply to how intranets turned out until recently or do they apply to a social intranet? Ref: Social Business is about People and Opportunities

But, it does not suffice to just let loose some new software, even if it’s great. Companies, organizations and their employees are creatures of habit, fully busy with dealing with ongoing operations, usually supported (or maybe rather “constrained”) by established processes and policies that safeguard status quo. Capturing the opportunities that come with implementing a social intranet requires executive level commitment and conscious and targeted efforts.

But more about that in another post!

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Social Streaming Music, adding another dimension to the social web

I admit it, I’m a Spotify addict.

I have always loved listening to music and have a rather eclectic taste, I think. My Spotify playlists contain a great variety but with a certain lack of Death Metal, Opera and Country. If you find that among my playlists, I blame my kids.

Probably the first music service I used was Pandora and I still love the concept of the music genome project, but when faced with copyright issues a couple of years ago, Pandora chose to exclude all of us outside of the US from using their service.  I strongly suspect Pandora management regret deeply today that they didn’t persist in the fight to cut through the legal rigmarole. By excluding the rest of the world, they left the field free for others to build their strength and later to attack Pandora on their home turf.

Instead I use:

All of them are more or less straightforward internet radios, but Spotify is more. They have managed to get embedded in social networks left, right and center.

First and foremost, there’s the Spotify integration with Facebook. Provided my friends and I have linked our Spotify accounts with Facebook, I can “eavesdrop” on their playlists and get inspired by what they are listening to right now. Becoming aware of the music taste of your friends adds another dimension to the friendship. It helps you discover new music and artists, and get reminded about some that you have forgotten about too.

This way, I have both discovered and rediscovered great music. I have also found an old friend from high school who is the first to display a more eclectic taste of music than mine. He has opera and heavy metal too.

On top of that, you can send – of course – links to both tracks and playlists to friends and followers on both Facebook and Twitter, and within Spotify itself of course. There are independent sites for sharing playlists and recently Spotify have taken the venture into the platform space and open up for others to write apps within the infrastructure itself. On top, they have added, even more recently, a player for embedding on websites to play Spotify tracks within your site, as I saw on Mashable the other week.

What will be next?

Hopefully an agreement with some of my old heroes; The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Frank Zappa.

What’s so disturbing about the new option in Google Search?

For a week or so, there’s been hoards of tweets and posts by people being upset about the new feature in Google Search results: the possibility of including search results powered by your network (in Google+, that is).

The criticism seem to fall into one of the following categories – or both:

  • It’s unfair to include only Google+
  • Search fundamentalism

Before looking closer at these to I have to state: the more I’ve read, the more puzzled I have become. What’s so bad about an option to get a little help from your friends by boosting your search results with their experience and activities? After all, they are more likely to share your interests than all the other folks out there. Friendship is usually based on having something in common, isn’t it?

In our social intranet, we have similar concept, which we regard as an advantage: “Your friends are your filter”. Faced with an abundance of information, it’s usually a good help to have get a helping hand to find the trees in the forest.

Particularly as you really don’t need to be active on Google+ once you have created your network there. Just get an account, add people to your circles and off you go. They don’t even need to accept your following of them like they would have to on Facebook. Topping up, the search results is based on their activity, not yours. So you can just idle and inject their results if you want to. Or not, if you so should choose.

Let’s look instead at the “unfair” argument.

I thought Google wasn’t a public service, but a business. Just like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are. If the same possibility was available to Facebook, they wouldn’t have thought twice about doing it. And would anybody have been surprised? They are not known for acting like your local charity. Rather, I’ve been hoping for Google as the challenger with both muscle and brains to be able to finally challenge the overwhelming dominance by Facebook on the social arena. Facebook getting some serious competition is a good thing.

Also, as stated earlier, once you’ve opened an account and added some folks to your circles your ready to roll…and can keep interacting with your friends on Facebook if you’d like to.

Let’s turn to the Search Fundamentalists

Their argument is that adding “your world” to the search criteria distorts the search results compared to the ones generated by the pure search algorithm. Apart from the ability to turn off the “your world”-option, I’ve had more sympathy for this argument. Many of us still remember how sponsored search ranking caused the downfall of Alta Vista (had to search my memory for the name actually). It would be stupid by Google to fall into the same trap. But are they? The network results are clearly indicated as such and the sponsorship is unpaid, made by people  by your choice. And… once again… you can easily turn it off.

Finally, just a couple of days ago, I came upon the final nail in the coffin of the fundamentalist way of thinking, a blog entry in C-net “Why Google is ditching search“. It brought to my attention what I already knew, but hadn’t thought off: that search results rankings are already distorted, but not through Google selling ranking, but through people engaging SEO services.

So, case closed – at least in my book. I will keep using the Search and your world option most of the time and now have one more reason to add interesting people to my circles weather we know each other or not, as long as they seem to post interesting stuff.

Collaboration contexts

Sometimes conversations on collaboration can get a bit confused. Often because you aren’t talking about the same thing, but without realizing. The concept of collaboration means different things to different people… and at different times. It’s a matter of context.

I find it useful to think (and explain) a bit extra about the context of collaboration when discussing with others, but also on my own when analyzing behaviours and observations.

The three typical contexts presented here have provided an excellent basis for me (I know it’s no rocket science, but it has proven useful often enough for me to want to share).

Collaboration Contexts: Individuals collaborating, Collaboration in communities, Task-oriented teams

Usually, I apply this model when talking about intranets, but I think it works pretty well also in public networks.

Many tools and features are used in all contexts, but in different ways and with variations of intensity and – definitely – for different purposes.

Teams with a goal

Teams with a goal are typically in need of a project space of some kind. A couple of characteristics:

  • Limited external visibility of the project space if any at all
  • Non-homogenous membership profile. Members are selected based on complementary competences and characteristics
  • An end in sight. When the goal is reached, the project space is no longer needed (except as a repository for reference if need be)
  • Greater need for and use of tools for task management
  • Easily understandable business rationale

As this context has long been the easiest to understand and assign monetary value, web support was available early, also on a commercial online basis.

Individuals sharing interests as individuals

The obvious examples of individuals sharing interests as individuals are all public: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. People who have something in common  (socially, business or interest) connect, keep in contact and share information on a “free-for-all” basis: “Here’s my update/picture/link. Come and get it if you’re interested.” Conceptually, the purest example in my book is Delicious, where I share my bookmarks publicly for anyone to find and use, with no strings attached whatsoever. Some characteristics:

  • Openness
  • Heterogeneous
  • One-to-any communication
  • Ad-hoc and serendipitous
  • Difficult-to-explain business benefits

While this type of collaboration has seen unparalleled success the latest decade in the public arena, it has had greater difficulties to make the same headway within companies and organizations. Quite understandably so, too, at least as long as you think conventionally; structure, purpose, process, measurability, cause-and-effect. In many cases, the public sites for individual collaboration may even have had a negative effect on internal acceptance. “I don’t want to introduce something for my employees to waste their time internally on socializing as they do already on Facebook”.

But those of us who have had the opportunity to use rich and comprehensive social intranets are very aware that they pay off. It’s just so darned difficult to present their value in a way that the conventionally minded understand.

Individuals banding together in communities of interest

In comparison with the Teams with a goal-scenario, Communities are:

  • Openly visible – although joining may be limited
  • Homogenous – people join out of a common interest
  • Longer lasting – as long as they stay vital
  • Focus on sharing knowledge, not on task management
  • Greater difficulties in measuring business value

Most of the time, it’s easier to measure the business value of employees being able to form internal voluntary communities of interest across borders and distances, be they geographical or organizational. Project managers sharing lessons learned, asking each other for help, sharing useful links, collaborating on describing best practices in wikis etc or programmers, or people working for a particular client, a customer segment or in a particular area of technology or…

But there is an increase of communities of interest also in the public domain; groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, by hashtags on Twitter etc. For companies who do not offer similar possibilities internally, I think these public communities represent a major risk of leakage of intellectual property.

So, next time the arguments of your discussion partner seem not to make sense, take a step back and spend some time on understanding if you talk about collaboration in the same contexts or in different.

Uppmuntra anställda som engagerar sig i sociala medier, det tjänar både företaget och samhället på

Häromdagen tipsades jag om en artikel i CSR i Praktiken om att användare av sociala medier tar större samhällsansvar. källa Kan det verkligen stämma?

Tja, utan att värdera eller verifiera undersökningen bakom artikeln är det ändå inte svårt att föreställa sig att det nog kan vara så. Alltsomoftast brukar jag referera till den feelgodkänsla jag ofta får på Facebook, Twitter och min arbetsgivares sociala intranät. Men det borde väl inte förvåna att folk som dras till sociala mötesplatser, på nätet eller på stan är mer medkännande än de som håller sig för sig själva. Eller?

  • Sociala medier är just det – sociala – man umgås, exponeras för andras åsikter och känslor, delar med sig av de egna
  • Mycket går ut på att dela med sig och att ta del av vad andra delar med sig av, att svara på frågor, att bli hjälpt av andra (särskilt tydligt på intranätet)
  • Avstånden minskar, du får med lätthet och ögonblickligen inblick i livet på andra sidan jordklotet – och upptäcker ofta att det egentligen inte är så olikt ditt eget

Den andra delen av artikeln handlar mycket om min arbetsgivares attityd till de anställdas engagemang i sociala medier – vi uppmuntras. Jag låter den tala för sig själv men kompletterar med lite information av intresse: Av IBM:s över 400.000 anställda är åtminstone 200.000 medlemmar på Facebook, cirka 25.000 twittrar och 17.000 bloggar. Det blir en exponering som varje marknadsförare drömmer om och som får varje kriskommunikatör att darra. Självklart blir siffrorna slående stora i och med att företaget är så stort, men kontentan blir allmängiltig; det är bara att gilla läget. Att hantera det. Gärna så som IBM har gjort: med en tydlig policy, med hjälp och coaching och med att tydligt kommunicera företagets värderingar.

I sammanhanget kan det nog ändå vara bra att kika på denna sammanställning av aktiviteter på sociala medier som gjort att folk blivit nekade jobb (i USA, såvitt jag förstår), att se över sina integritetsinställningar och att tänka noga efter vad man publicerar var. Intressantast av allt är att 95% av de tillfrågade företagen kollade upp kandidaterna på sociala medier. Och, i ärlighetens namn, den rekryterare som inte kollar ditt CV mot LinkedIn gör ju tjänstefel egentligen.

Which social aggregator will be first to include Google+ ?

Many of us social addicts have come to rely on aggregators to help us post across social platforms and to view and manage our scanning of the buzz in one application. The ones I have come across are Tweetdeck, Echofon, Seesmic and Yoono. I’m sure there are more. Please feel welcome to add a comment if I have left out your favourite.

They all have their advantages and disadvantages. I have come to use Tweetdeck and Yoono more and more. Tweetdeck because of the neat control of the panels where I can follow a subset of twitterflows and Facebook. For quick posting, Yoono integrated into Firefox gives a continuous flow of updates, including a nice, but sometimes distracting notifier in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. You can turn it off if you want to, forever of for a limited time. But the best thing about Yoono is the coverage of services: Facebook, several Twitter accounts, LinkedIn, FriendFinder, MySpace, Flickr, Foursquare, AIM, Yammer, Yahoo Messenger Google Buzz and Google Talk as well as YouTube. They just had to give up on Microsoft Live Messenger but who cares really?

Now when Google have released Google+ to the public, I wait in suspense to see which of these aggregators (or others) will be the first to integrate with it. Whichever it is it will get a big + in my book since that is currently a prime hurdle to my use of Google+.

It’s unlikely to be Tweetdeck (since they were recently acquired by Twitter)

I hope it is Yoono.

I actually think it will be Yoono.

—- UPDATE —-

13 October 2011

The correct answer is: None of the above.

I have just sent my first cross-network update using iStatus+, an iPhone app by Nadan Gergeo. Read more here