If you must have in-house social tools, go with SharePoint

Our Microsoft blogger shares some practical advice on how to implement social networking at the office with SharePoint

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How to set up social networking in SharePoint
The good news, at least from the SharePoint perspective, is that you have a tremendous amount of control over the amount of information people can share. For example, by deploying the User Profile Service Application in a SharePoint server farm, you can deploy My Sites and My Profile options to your users. They can then enter their own profile information, upload images of themselves for a profile picture, create a personal page with a document library (both personal and shared), tag other people's sites and information, and search for people within the organization based on their profiles.

The SharePoint administrator can control the extent to which the sharing occurs. You can adjust the properties in the profile page, turning options on or off and adding new properties if needed. You can turn off the I Like It and Tags & Notes features, and you can even delete tags or notes your corporate policy disapproves of. You can access profile information and make changes if needed. And you don't have to turn on My Sites or let people create their own blog and so on: It's not an all-or-nothing situation with these tools (ditto with third-party tools).

Let's be honest: Communication features are heralded to the community, but control features sell an administrator looking to deploy the product.

If you are looking at using social networking tools in-house, it's always good to provide training and ground rules. Training will help people feel more comfortable with the new tools, while ground rules will keep them out of trouble. Expectations should also be set in terms of how much time should be spent with these tools. You can't always tell when someone is chewing up company hours with social networking, so make sure they know where the line is (more or less).

What is the value again?
I'm not a fan of social networking tools at work. I believe it distracts people more than it provides value. Call me a dinosaur, but when I want to say something important to the entire company, I use this ancient system called email. Maybe I'm not a team player because I don't like collaborating on documents; if I need your help on a document, I'll email it to you and you can look it over.

And don't get me started on posting pictures and employee blogs. I need to read another employee blog like I need a hole in the head. As for pictures, I'm already overwhelmed by my family's and friends' photos on Facebook, now I have to see my colleagues' shots of their weekend BBQ? As people waste their time clicking through the latest vacation snapshots to see their coworkers' funny, cool, sexy (at work!) pictures and waste more company time and money?

Call me a grandpa fuddy-duddy but I say, "Get back to work!" If you need a mental break, go get a cup of coffee and talk to your coworkers in person.

What do you think about social networking tools at work?

This article, "If you must have in-house social tools, go with SharePoint," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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