With human social behaviour forming over 10,000’s of evolutionary years it is very interesting to watch our social communication now working over a relatively new medium. Ning the new Social Networking website and many of its predecessors have tapped into people’s need to socially communicate and share common and fun interests. This new medium is free, quick and easy to access within our increasingly busy lives enabling us to stay in touch with more people, more often. These social sites have expanded user numbers rapidly by piggy backing, known as “viral loop”, off our existing social networks as explained by Adam L. Penenberg at FastCompany.com.
Contact through Social networks allow us to share feeling and pass on thoughts within our personal home life, however when we leave for work we don’t simply leave our social behaviour at the front door. In business, Social Networks dance to a very different tune because rather than sharing feelings of fun to strengthen our exiting ties or make new friends we are required to seek information to base business decisions upon. Information and views shared in business are often about markets changes, customer needs, competitor’s new products or services. Work is our modern day environment of survival of the fittest and thus the war like mantra that often exists in business strategic terms.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t try and make work a fun and enjoyable place, in fact workers are more effective when happy, however at work we have a definite purpose and that purpose is contextual. Long before Ning and Facebook firms have been taking advantage of individuals social networks and connections to access and sell to new customers. Tupperware parties, insurance referrals and home product pyramid sales structures are examples which have been successfully used for many years. Harnessing an effective internal social network structure in business can also bring real business benefits, however simply giving employees fun communications tools will not necessary make them more productive. This week Ross Dawson the uncamera shy business leader highlighted some of the benefits of social networking in business in an inteview with Skynews.
I recently meet Jenny Ambrozek, a New York based organizational development consultant and she has been studying Social networks in business for many years along with academics such as Robert Buckman. Jenny recently undertook a study into Facebook in business in partnership with a leading business school. The conclusion from this study was that a Social Network environment brings many benefits to the participants but Facebook’s ‘holes Limit Potential Use as an Enterprise Wide Net Working Platform’. Whilst some firms have fully embraced this new medium many businesses have banned employees from Facebook out of fear.
Facebook and Ning were not made to address business needs and problems, however they are awaking us to a more people focused open environment and their evolution to a business specific set of tools may well provide a much improved approach than our current siloed and channel centric systems.