Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Social Networks and Business

Paul Pedrazzi, writing on the Oracle AppsLab Site, questions the value of Social Networks for business.

So what about Digg and Social Networks make them unworkable for business? Or stated differently, what do they need to become relevant to the business world.

As usual, in the world of 2.0 it all comes down to people. Social sites cannot be all that useful for business until everyone is on them. It’s the law of network effects all over again (remember the fax machine example). The nuance today, is that the people on these sites have to be the ones I care about.

There are lots of people using Digg, MySpace, and more, but from a work perspective, that has very little use to me. I want my trusted group. In simple terms that can be thought of as ALL the employees of Oracle. Sure it would be nice to have people I trust outside Oracle in there, but all my co-workers would be a grand start.

Once you have the people you trust, all you need is content.

Only listening to coworkers and exploring their interests is a good start. But it builds another silo, just like narrowcasting and the demise of newspapers. This might end in a dull and lifeless community. Social networks are meant to build strong connections and explore new ones.

If you want to keep information and connections inside the firewall, social networks don't seem very beneficial. This might be reserved for Wikis. Maybe blogs.
But, as one of the commenters to the original post mentions, wikis/blogs provide content but not context. That's an important distinction. Wikis are important tools to democratize various development processes. Social networks add context to it. Context is a basic human desire. And a fact of corporate life.

Corporate social networks would increase the likelihood of discovering hidden gems since they don't have to work through the hierarchy in order to be heard. That alone should be enough to consider them.

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