Social Software’s Triple Crown

I don’t know a lot about horses. But my uncle does. One of his horses won the Triple Crown of standard bred horseracing in 1983. Though horses aren’t my thing, I learned about what I call the “Triple Crown of Social Software” many years ago.

When I was hired by Tomoye (acquired by NewsGator) to lead its product direction, I was told about how much value social software adds to business. While I bought into the concept and accepted the job, I wasn’t fully convinced until I talked to customers directly.

When I asked customers what they felt the value of social software was, I was amazed how consistent the answers were. While the weighting or priority of the answers varied, the main use cases were always the same three:

  1. Get timely answers from colleagues;
  2. Find an expert; and
  3. Share relevant and timely content with peers.

NewsGator Social Sites addresses these use cases by:

  • Helping colleagues get timely answers from their peers.
    Posting a question in the activity stream means you can solicit answers from a wider community without spamming or following long email threads. Social Sites suggests hashtags to the asker, making for excellent matching and routing to the experts who can help. Users can easily make themselves available for answering by filling out their ‘Ask Me About’ tags in the expertise part of their profiles. Askers can accept answers, which makes good answers more visible. Frequently asked questions can be converted quickly into easily discoverable knowledge base items. The system recognizes askers and answerers encouraging further participation.
  • Providing many ways to find experts in an organization.
    Social Sites identifies subject matter experts based on user participation and how other users react to this participation. Searching based on a keyword helps users find top-scoring individuals and compare their overall expertise. Top expertise terms are displayed on user profiles, and employees are prompted to add terms to their profiles when they demonstrate expertise on a new topic. Colleagues can then ask questions based on profile tags or the expertise browser.
  • Working with SharePoint to offer a rich and comprehensive set of tools including the sharing of documents, wikis, blogs and micro-blogs and much more.
    Since video is becoming a very popular way for users to quickly share knowledge, we’ve added a fair bit of functionality to support it. Users can easily create and share videos from their mobile devices that peers can later have a conversation around. These conversations can happen in the stream or on the video page. As of v3.5, users can ask questions or comment around a particular section of the video. Sometimes knowledge is best shared from a recorded screen session or web-cam, which users can easily create and post. These screencasts, for instance, are ideal for walking through a slide-deck. Two-part video scenarios are effective for having users think about a problem (first video) before seeing how it was solved (second video) and seeing how other users would have approached the problem (the video scenario comments).

We at NewsGator spend a lot of time thinking about use cases and how our implementations can add real business value in a human-centric way. I would love to talk to you personally about any of the topics above. Would you join me at our marquis customer event, the “Collective”, March 5-7 in Denver?

After all, there is nothing like— if I may say— hearing it from the horse’s mouth.

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