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Driving Business Socially

August 17, 2011

I recently had the pleasure of providing a webinar to discuss Traveling Coaches’ use of the social micro-blogging tool, Yammer. While doing a bit of research and pulling together my presentation; I found it necessary to compare the ever-growing pool of social platforms vying for your attention. I kept the comparison to what I would consider the main players of the social arena (and in no particular order), Yammer, Facebook, LinkedIn and the newest kid on the block…Google+.

Since my presentation was about Yammer…that’s where my main focus was of course, but I also wanted to compare other social platforms based on how I use (or just as importantly – do not use) each. My criteria for using a social platform is the same as yours I would venture to guess. Features available, community, ease-of-use and support provided are all important considerations, but I wanted to provide a simple comparison of each on the basis of how they might help me get my work done on a daily basis.

Let’s start with the biggest player in the game at the moment…Facebook. Facebook is great for staying connected with family and friends, but I don’t believe it works for business. This is no surprise because if you look at the history of Facebook, it’s easy to see that it was never really intended to be a driver for business (although the recent release of Google+ may have given Facebook motivation to place more of an emphasis on business). One of the biggest problems is you can’t control the amount of access a “friend” has to your content. You either provide access to everything or nothing at all. How bizarre is that? Another issue that has given Facebook a black eye in the past is privacy. If you’re going to be considered a reliable resource in business, especially in legal, security is king and Facebook’s issues with privacy have scared away more than one firm looking into social collaboration I would think.

LinkedIn was originally designed to maintain business contacts. In recent years, the “free” version has morphed into an amalgamation of a contact database, Facebook for business, online resume/job posting and a meet and greet for all things relating to your professional life.  This is all fine and dandy, but can it help me drive my projects, keeping me under budget and on time? It could, but I would also have to sort through a lot of extraneous distractions. Messages from people outside of my network, lovely Flash animated banner ads (remember, I use the free subscription), suggestions to add more contacts and constant little indicators that your profile could beat up my profile unless I get in there and add more to it on a fairly regular basis. It’s the “busyness” of LinkedIn that prevents me from using it as often as I might otherwise.

Google+ definitely has potential from what I’ve seen, but it’s still way too early for me to pass judgment on using it as a resource for my day-to-day work. One reason is the relative infancy of Google+. I’m not ready to rely on anything as new as a daily work resource. I would rather it be vetted (preferably by others) and have a bit more time to get any kinks worked out. The other, and probably more important, reason is that not everyone is on Google+, at least not yet. It’s difficult to collaborate with your team through a social medium when half of your team isn’t using it. That said…Google+ circles provide for better privacy and permission layering than anything Facebook currently offers. Google+ has a better chat feature than Facebook in my opinion and is not as cluttered with all the annoying apps at this stage. This provides a much cleaner user interface than either Facebook or LinkedIn. Hopefully, that will remain unchanged.

Finally there’s Yammer, the one tool out of the four I do use on a daily basis. The reason is its simplicity. A nice description on the Yammer website reads “Although Yammer is as easy to use as consumer products like Facebook or Twitter, it is enterprise-class software built from the ground up to drive business objectives.” Yammer doesn’t really do anything that can’t be done through Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+. What I think it does far better than any of the others is add focus and simplicity to an area surprisingly lacking when it comes to social media and that’s having coworkers collaborate among one another naturally and seamlessly.

Traveling Coaches finds that the free (similar to LinkedIn) offering more than meets our current needs. If you require more administrative control, there is a licensed version available. If you haven’t signed up yet…head on over to http://www.yammer.com, signup and let us know what you think here – nextgenlearning@travelingcoaches.com.

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