Social Software - How's This Going To Make Me Money?
by Lisa Duke
Social software, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Skype, are getting huge buzz. But are they toys for your kids, or the next generation of business tools?
One of the primary objections we hear when discussing social software with clients or potential clients is that if they allow employees access to these new tools, that they will use them to waste time and socialize with friends. This is true - tools that allow communication between people can be used for entertainment or for business. This objection is also relevant to the telephone, though, and I don't find many businesses who distrust their employees so much they won't allow them to use a telephone. Realistically, an employee's work ethic and energy level determines whether they spend their time usefully or not. Access to one tool or another is not the issue. An employee who is likely to goof off with Facebook is also using his email account, phone, internet connection and co-workers for entertainment as well. This is an issue for HR, not IT.
So if we agree that any tool that connects people to people will be used for work by good workers, the question is, HOW could a good employee use these tools for business? Here are some uses we've found at STS for the tools that are publically available for free.
At STS, we use LinkedIn for recruiting and event boosting. LinkedIn is basically a collection of resumes on the web. In fact, a year ago when we hired Ernie Sutter, we told him not to bother sending a resume. All his work history was posted on LinkedIn, so we already had what we needed.
This makes Linked In a fantastic recruiting tool. Need to find someone with Quickr experience in Atlanta? Just go to advanced search and you'll find a list of potential employees, contractors, or partners.
In addition to recruiting, STS uses LinkedIn for event boosting. One of the ways we support the Lotus community is by starting (or restarting) Lotus User Groups in markets where we have clients and friends so Lotus customers can share best practices, get free training, and network with each other. When we enter a new geography, we may not know all the customers, partners, independent contractors, and other Lotus devotees who live and work there. Again, with the advanced search features, we can connect with people in that area and help bring them together.
The best way to understand Twitter is to think of it as a 24x7 international cocktail party located on the internet. Just like at a regular cocktail party, the easiest way to enjoy it is to find your friends and visit with them. It's a great way to stay in touch with partners and friends who are geographically dispersed and to stay up to date on the chatter in your social or professional circles.
Like a cocktail party, Twitter is also a way to get to know people you would like to know. If you find someone on Twitter you'd like to get to know, follow them for awhile, listen in, and then chime in when you have something relevant to add. Often those initial online conversations will later lead to an offline meeting (called a Tweetup) where those online relationships can become real, face to face friendships. To learn more about the history and culture of Twitter, I recommend Twitterville by Shel Israel.
While Facebook has it's roots as a way to reconnect with friends from school and socialize with new friends, businesses are creeping into the mix with "fan pages". STS uses Facebook to take business relationships to a personal level and for event boosting to people who might not find time to visit our Events page or may not be active on LinkedIn.
Skype is not just for appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show. In fact, Skype can be used for instant messaging and audio chat in addition to video chat and is a great way to connect with people overseas with whom you might not normally stay in touch.
All these products are free, and all are easily accessible to users. No IT support required to download or configure things. If you have additional questions or would like more advice getting started with social software contact STS.