The Business Value of Online Communities

I've recently started joining some of the online communities I've been hearing so much about like FacebookSecondLife, Twitter and Flickr and I have a confession to make - I'm quite addicted to them. Especially Facebook. In fact, I'm thinking of starting a 12 step program, as I know I'm not the only one. Within a few days of creating my account, I was re-establishing relationships with people I haven't talked to in years. I started connecting with people I may not have had an avenue to connect to otherwise (although Steve Ballmer has yet to respond to my request to be his friend) and I was adding another dimension to the relationships I'd already established in the offline world. But was has really captured my attention is the thought of how these communities are changing how businesses think about collaboration.

I was recently attending some internal training sessions and one of the new applications that was highlighted was AcademyMobile which is a Microsoft extranet for field employees to share podcast content.


It's a brilliant example of how social computing (with features such as rating and commenting on the posts of others, as well as built in instant messaging) can meet business goals and enhance the interactive experience for employees (as in this case), partners and customers. So while many companies are banning the use of Facebook and other social networking sites during business hours, as an IT manager you may be well advised to take a look at what's going on in the world of online communities. Business is changing and IT needs to be ready.

For more about the why and how of developing the Academy Mobile site, see the SharePoint Team blog.

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