As defined by Wikipedia, “Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.” This definition applies primarily to any form of business interactions, rather than for personal socializing.
However, as people increasingly exploit mobile smartphones and tablets for accessing the Web and for multi-modal communications flexibility, we need to expand that definition to include Communications Enabled Business Process (CEBP) applications that will initiate contacts with end users through social networks. This is something that IBM is pushing strongly as “Social Business.”
Social networking is primarily a means of posting user-generated information and comments to a virtual community of interest. Members of the community have an option to be notified when a new posting occurs, as well as an option to post a response to the new posting. So, it’s not quite like person-to-person(s) email. However, as is already starting to happen with new capabilities from social networking services, end users are being given options to switch modalities to respond to the person of a particular post, by email, IM, or a real-time voice or video connection. (WebRTC should prove very useful for this!)
So, what we now have is a growing open communication arena based on community content interest relationships, where unified communication (UC) integrations can provide flexible interactions with people in the community, not through a traditional personal address book or organizational directory for person-to-person contacts.
According to the Wikipedia write-up, mobility is playing an increasingly stronger role in allowing community members to participate while mobile, i.e., by being proactively notified when a new posting of interest has occurred. In effect, mobile communications reinforces the speed of social messaging activities across a common interest of any size community. However, once an individual user is mobile, they will need the flexibility of UC to be notified and respond in the medium that is most appropriate, i.e., speech, text, or even video.
As I have frequently discussed in the past, UC enablement facilitates greater flexibility in initiating and responding to communication contacts with mobile people, and mobile social networking is no exception. Tablet usage increased from 3% to 16% in 2012 and mobile users spend 30% of their time with social networking. Once a user becomes actively engaged in a particularly interesting topic and opts to be notified of new posts, the capabilities of smartphones will allow multi-modal real-time notifications of new post or replies to significantly increase. That’s where the challenge of BYOD comes into play.
The result of such increased social networking activities can be applied to both personal social networking communities or to organizational business groups, and seamless “dual persona” capabilities of smartphones and tablets (e.g., the new BlackBerry “Balance” smartphone software) will be able to keep mobile social networking activities properly separated. However, there will always be the challenge for individual end users to manage their mobile time efficiently. So, as with any form of real-time contacts, social networking notifications must be manageable by the many mobile recipients in a community.
IBM’s Push For "Social Business"
Aside from mobile access to social network posts, there is a bigger role for social networking for business contacts. As note in this very interesting discussion with IBM’s John Del Pizzo, Program Director, Social Communications, and Head of Product Management, IBM Sametime & Sametime Unified Telephony, IBM is using social networking to interact more easily and efficiently with anyone in a community group, inside or outside of an organization.
In a way, it is like “skills-based routing” used in traditional customer call centers, except now it is not a voice phone call connection that has to be made first, and it will be usable by anyone in the community group. As John describes it, “We call it ‘The shift from reach to relevance.’ It’s not about the one-on-one interaction with the people you know that you can reach. It is about the relevant people who can help you regardless of where they are in the organization.”
So, add social networking to the UC enablement list that will impact business communications.
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