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Social Media and Collaboration Tools

Getting started with social media needn't be complicated. Many software tools are available – and you may already be using one without realizing it.

February 13, 2012

Getting started with social media needn't be complicated. Many software tools are available—and you may already be using one without realizing it. Even a rudimentary technology can help save time by sharing documents efficiently, getting more done between meetings and reducing the volume of email.

Integrated platforms: Some enterprisewide software products have collaboration tools that are built in or that can be added for a fee. Examples include Microsoft Corp.'s SharePoint and SalesForce's Chatter. If someone at the company is already using such a tool and finds it useful, the entire organization's social media strategy could be built around it.

Facebook and Skype: A social media platform may already exist on your desktop or browser. Many companies use Facebook as a forum for employees, customers and clients, though it is neither private nor functional enough to serve core business needs. Also, Skype can work as a de facto company intranet.

One company, GovernmentAuctions.org requires every employee to install Skype and use it for instant messaging, file sharing and sometimes as a replacement for face-to-face meetings. "We are much more productive because of it," says CEO Ian Aronovich.

Third-party vendors: Companies such as Atlassian, Spigit and Yammer sell comprehensive social media and collaboration platforms.

Wikis: A company wiki is like a small Wikipedia, where members of a group can constantly update important files, like documentation or manuals. These living documents can be very useful. Anyone in the information technology department could set one up, but most wikis do require some programming skills to operate. Some vendors, such as ., Jive Software, Same-Page.com and Socialtext Inc. offer wikis as a stand-alone product or bundled with other services..

David Ferris is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.