16 January 2009

Various on social networking

Pew Research have reported that, despite the focus on young people's use of SN sites, more US adults than young people have a profile on SN sites. Having a profile doesn't say much, though, and active use still remains the preserve of young adults (18-24s). Pew report that social use of SN is more prevalent than professional use and that those using SN professionally maintain separate identities to avoid cross-over between personal and work domains.

IBM have published a summary of research analysing work-based use of SN, having tracked employees' use of their internal tool, Beehive. The tool was provided without restrictions on the information shared and they found people exchanging both personal and professional information. In contrast to personal SNs (such as Facebook) they found that IBMers used Beehive, not just to network with people they knew but also to connect to people they didn't know, to gain support for projects and ideas and advance their careers. They found positive outcomes for individuals who were using Beehive extensively, e.g. greater social capital, commitment to the company, access to expertise etc. (for me it's hard to see whether these resulted from or contributed to extensive use).

Bill Ives has commented on the IBM research, particularly on the finding that within the protected environment of an organisation, people use SN to connect to people they don't know and that there are gains in social capital for individuals who make those connections. Ives comments that he can see how these connections might be important in a large consulting organisation such as IBM but that the reported gains from SN now need to be linked to business outcomes to show return on investment

Very nice post by Penny Edwards, also stemming from the IBM report, pointing out that the benefits of SN in organisations depend on how it is implemented i.e. integration with existing tools, reflecting people's personal preferences for communicating their networked identity, rewarding with more value than simply 'who is connected with who.'

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