As an avid Twitter and Facebook user, the growing social software or social networking market and its intersection with unified communications has intrigued me. Whether it’s a public service like Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, or a secure enterprise service like Cisco Eos or IBM Lotus Connections, the use of social software is skyrocketing, and is changing the way we communicate and collaborate. Lots of enterprises have been embracing some of these services, and companies like Comcast, Zappos, and Dell all use Twitter, for example, to provide updates to customers and to monitor and to see what people are “tweeting” about them.
For security reasons, some companies discourage their employees from using public social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and are turning to enterprise-class services that provide the security needed while meeting business goals (e.g.; networking with peers within the organization, finding an expert within the company, collaborating on projects, etc.). There are currently a limited number of these enterprise services available today, but this should be the hot growth area, and based on some of the demos I’ve seen at conferences, we should be seeing some innovative services within the next year or so.
So where does unified communications fit in with social software? We’re already seeing some integration with the enterprise services.
Services like Twitter are great for certain things like finding out which of the people you “follow” are at the same conference as you, or to get up-to-the-minute notification and information on what’s going on. But these services are limited in various ways, particularly in the enterprise environment, and integration with some UC tools would be very useful. For example, I may see something important in a colleague’s “tweet” and want to contact them in real time via a phone call and be able to conference in other people to discuss the issue. While Twitter doesn’t provide this capability, there are add-on applications from third parties, such as Phweet that are used to create ad hoc conference calls between groups of Twitter users. It’s only a matter of time until this type of capability can be used with other social software services as well. Also, I would also expect Tweets and updates from Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. to show up in users’ unified messaging inboxes, enabling them to send a reply via various communication modes.
Integration with business processes is also making headway. LenderFlex in Atlanta, Georgia is using Twitter to deliver risk based mortgage pricing to mortgage loan professionals and real estate agents, who can get information when and where they need it by simply twittering a few codes.
There are several ways in which social software and unified communications can be used together, including tying in presence capabilities, click to call, click to conference, mobility, and other capabilities to make it easier to connect with people in your organization who have the expertise and knowledge you need to tap into at the time seems to be the basic and first step.
Also, notifications and alerts on community topics is another valuable way in which communication enabled business process (CEBP) functions are packaged into simple applications such as Twitter. Many applications rely on immediate notification of events to the appropriate people, and Twitter or enterprise-based social networking services could be a fast and easy way to do this.
Expect to see more use cases of social networking and UC in the near future. And feel free to follow me on twitter at blairplez.