The way in which they will follow suit has a twist to it. Rather than looking to social networking as a fun medium, Microsoft and Google are looking to create programs that incorporate social networking to help companies increase efficiency and productivity.
Microsoft is testing social networking in the workplace via its OfficeTalk application. OfficeTalk is not available to the public, as it is more of a research project. With OfficeTalk, employees can post ideas, updates, and the like in an effort to share information with others within the organization through microblogging, just as Twitter does, but in more of a social form.
Microsoft is testing the effectiveness of such a product on itself first by making OfficeTalk available to its own employees. The company is hoping to find out how employees will use the program and what features would be helpful. After using themselves as a guinea pig, Microsoft will then shift the focus of the program to other organizations to get a better sample size and more ideas on how to improve OfficeTalk. This is essential; many businesses differ, and what might work for a company like Microsoft might not work for another type of company.
Not to be outdone, Google is also testing a similar social networking in the workplace concept with its Google Buzz program. Google Buzz is a program that works in conjunction with Gmail to give users a comprehensive view of their friends’ information. For instance, they can view friends’ statuses, photos, videos, and links all in one place. If this sounds familiar, then it is, as Facebook basically uses this model. Google hopes that Buzz will be more useful for organizations and employees, however.
Buzz also integrates several existing social networking sites into its platform, such as Flickr, YouTube, Picasa, and more. Unlike Microsoft’s OfficeTalk, Google Buzz was actually made public on February 9, 2010. While the idea sounds good, the program has already received criticism for its perceived lack of privacy in sharing too much personal information with other users.
One has to wonder, why doesn’t Twitter come up with a workplace-based program? They could be developing one, and at the moment they do offer private accounts to keep information safe and enclosed. Whether or not a full-fledged corporate program gets released in the future is something to be determined.
Besides the already-diagnosed problems with privacy as seen with the Google Buzz program, other questions and concerns could arise concerning the development and use of such a social networking program within a business. Primarily, will it cause too much of a distraction? With many people’s lives seemingly consumed by text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, and the like, will the implementation of such a system at work actually decrease efficiency? The possibility seems to be very high. If developers can provide a solution that does increase workplace efficiency without causing a distraction, however, it will be worth its weight in gold.
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