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!

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.

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