For personal and business users alike, Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites are all the rage. And no wonder, considering how easy it is to start using these social networking tools. While many people use Twitter and the like to broadcast what they had for lunch, they can also serve as valuable business tools, particularly when it comes to online collaboration. Social networking lets employees easily communicate with their colleagues, in an engaging and current way.
This is why I have compiled a list with some of the best online collaboration tools that base their format on social networking platforms.
This tool lets companies build their own social network, which is great for getting colleagues to know each other better in a professional environment. It has wikis, blogs, file sharing, links and more. To create an account, employees need to use their work email address. Once registration is complete, users can invite their co-workers to start building their networks. It is completely web-based and the interface is clean and pleasant to use. Once users create their profiles, they can start sharing information about themselves (it’s even possible to include who they sit next to). Users then follow the colleagues they work with, and can see all of their updates on the feed, a list of everything those being followed are doing on CubeTree.
This is a free application will look very familiar to those who use Twitter, as it borrows its simple interface. It has a stream of updates, which can be used as a ‘virtual watercooler’, helping connect team members or serve as a log of ongoing work. One cool feature of this tool is that it can be used to track time, so the task of filling timesheets becomes much easier at the end of the day. Another useful feature is the display of all of a user’s connections’ latest activities in a single panel, so it’s easy to see what teams are up to during the workday. This tool also comes with an agenda, which displays what users plan to accomplish each day. This makes tasks like project management and scheduling meetings much easier.
One of Hashwork's main functions is to enable employees to engage with their company’s customers via social media. As with other virtual collaboration tools, users need to sign up with their work email address, which proves that they belong to a certain company. Once the sign up process is done, users get their own feeds, where they can post 140-character updates - and like Twitter, can include hashtags to group updates relating to a certain conversation together. Companies on Hashwork have their own communities, which can be followed by anyone. Information can be shared publicly or privately (with only a user’s co-workers, for example). Users can post updates to their feed from Twitter, e-mail or from the web.
This is another tool that relies on the microblogging model, made popular by Twitter. This means that users can post short updates that can be ‘followed’ by others. However, updates on Present.ly are private, and can’t be seen by anyone outside a user’s company. Users can create groups for each subject they plan on discussing by using the tool, and will then receive messages related to the discussion they are following. Present.ly lets people share documents with their colleagues, so there is no need to e-mail heavy files, so it's easy to share documents. Present.ly is also great for those who are always on-the-go, and not always on their work computer, as it can be used from most Internet-enabled devices like a BlackBerry or iPhone.
This tool is free for up to 25 users and could be a great choice for smaller businesses that want to collaborate online using a Web 2.0 model. Qontext is also a more complete tool than its counterparts, as it has full collaboration features including the ability to share presentations and view them on a web-browser (so no need for a download), surveys, polls and quizzes, for example. It also has a social bookmarking feature, that lets users in a network share useful hyperlinks either with the entire company, or to a certain group of users. Its updates look much like the Twitter feed, so it’s easy to get used to the tool.