Facebook an example in Social and Contextual Networking

Wikipedia lists numerous examples of social networking sites, popular ones, being Bebo, MySpace, Flickr, Facebook, Windows Live Spaces etc.

These all have their market share and particular niche, photography, music, youth orientated etc.

However recently Facebook has been making significant headway in reaching a wider audience and possibly from a greater variety of social and economic categories.

Though I am not in any way familiar with a large variety of social networking sites. I feel these factors are the critical ones to enabling Facebook’s current ascendancy, and want I think should become commonplace within collaborative and social networking applications with the business and corporate enterprise environment

  1. Clean and Uncluttered Look and Feel:

    For the information worker it is vital to be able to locate, retrieve and process information quickly and efficiently. There is no greater hindrance to this, than a messy over complicated, confusing or visually bombarding presentation.

    There are no such problems for Facebook, it clean cut look & feel, intuitive lay out make it easy to use, as well as pleasing and friendly to the eye.

    image

    (see more examples below).

  2. Key Social Networking Elements:
    1. Profiles:

      These are the mainstay of any social network site, where individual’s list, describe and tags various essential and non-essential elements about themselves to allow others to understand, collaborative and engage with them better.

      image

    2. Networking and Collaboration Tools

      These allow you find and communicate with others, allowing you to find contacts via your contacts list, education background, community activities, employment etc. As your list of contacts grows so does the vibrancy and uniqueness of your particular portal on Facebook.

      Interacting with contacts can be private, public, visual or audio, rich text, plain text, online or offline.

      image

    3. Contextual Displays – composite and personally relevant

      This is where the action is your home page… your news feed.

      image

      Here the actions, activities and updates of your contacts are delivered sequentially to your own personal view of world through Facebook. Obviously as public social network these activities are mainly leisure based; but it isn’t a huge change to understand how this could be immediately relevant, useful and effective in a business or commercial environment.

      Responses to shared tasks could be tracked

      Workflow application integration into the flow of the working day

      Status and location information, updated and displayed to all relevant parties

      image

      Decisions and actions can be published and rapidly orientate a dispersed or remote team into the strategy or plan.

    4. Application Access and integration:

      Where the richness and vibrance of Facebook really excels, is the applications that users can add to their interface.

      image

      Their appearance on profile enhances interactions, particular interests or involvements or passions. Once again the jump to understanding how useful this would be in an enterprise environment is not a difficult one. One advantage that Facebook has in its use and availability of applications for users is that the security of application content is not a concern, where that will be in an enterprise environment.

      Facebook should (and are) being congratulations for making it easy for users to create and develop applications they would like to see and use; and for making interaction with other public networking sites easy and relevant. They have applications that make use of Google, Flickr, Travel sites like TripAdvisor, Last.fm and many others.

      I particularly like the simple but effective features in the “Notes” application that pulls in entries from a blog that you use.

      image

  3. Responsiveness:

What keeps people coming back to Facebook is that is responsiveness and quickly becomes an effective way to keep in touch, or in the know about activities or people you have contact with.

Speed of response is something that is expected as a default. The internet has set expectations in terms of functionality, performance, availability and content. These translate into what information workers expect of services provided to them within their working environments.

In conclusion:

If a product is going to cut it as a social networking tool and contextual interface to the corporate environment, I believe it has compete and compare favorably with sites such as Facebook. Lotus Connections is a product that aims to provide this functionality of social and contextual networking within the corporate environment.

At this stage I’m not in a position to fully evaluate and compare, but Lotus Greenhouse is a site promoting the latest Lotus products from IBM; and it is running a Lotus Connections site. Interestingly there is a blog entry on that site comparing Lotus Connections with Facebook, so perhaps the evaluation is already there!

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