Definition: Social Network and Social Networking - A social network is an online-based tool and a utility for connecting with others. Social networking is the term used to describe participation in online communities and online relationship building. To read more about the basic definitions of social netowrking, here is a great blog post.
There are a lot of new tools out there that allow us to create collaborative work spaces. E-mail groups started the trend, then blogs, then wikis (I like Wet Paint wikis), twitter is a micro-conversation site, and now you can create full blown social networking sites so easy to set up that most anyone with basic computer skills can figure it out.
Ning is one such site (yes, I know, it seems that many of these new tech sites have strange names!). You can create your social network in about 15 minutes. Here's how they describe themselves:
Ning empowers people to create and discover new social experiences for the most important people and interests in their lives.
Ning was started with a simple premise: when people have the freedom to create a new social experience online, uniquely customized for the most important people and interests in their lives with no effort, no cost, and infinite choice, the world is a better, more colorful and certainly more interesting place in which to live.
With Ning, people are creating new social experiences that are:
- Infinitely customizable
- Beautifully designed
- Easily created and moderated
By providing people with a better way to discover and stay connected to the most important people and interests in their life, Ning represents a new chapter in how people create, organize, and communicate online.
And there are many others that offer a similar suite of functionality. And they can bring all your efforts together so that your teams have a centralize place to find documents, blog posts, discussions, and other information. I think these are great tools for work teams - especially those that are cross-functional and geographically dispersed. Give it a try. It is easy-peasy.
If you want to start by joining a ning social network and seeing what's possible, I would recommend the Employee Engagement Network.