Microsoft blends Facebook into Outlook

Rather than fearing social networking infiltrating the work world, consider the business case for embracing it

Microsoft today announced that its Outlook Social Connector plug-in now supports the popular social media site, which means Outlooks users can view newly posted status updates, pictures, and the like in real time from the convenience of Outlook.

If this announcement sends shivers down the spines of bosses who envision their employees frittering their days away following the perpetual soap opera that is -- or can be -- Facebook, consider the silver lining: Incorporating the social network into one's work world can also enhance collaboration with colleagues.

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Further, this sort of tool could actually give organizations an opportunity to lay out guidelines and to educate workers -- many of whom are likely already accessing Facebook during the day -- on the best way to use the social networking site responsibly and professionally, rather than in such a way that wastes time or embarrasses your organization.

Facebook, after all, isn't simply a medium for sharing what you had for breakfast or whether you're on Team Edward or Team Jacob. Like LinkedIn or Twitter, Facebook can also be useful for sharing information that might be beneficial on the professional front. As InfoWorld's Lisa Schmeiser wrote a while back in a piece called "The six commandments of social networking at work":

...the primary value of a social network is the aggregation of people on it. Block your employees from getting on a network, and you block their access to developing a far-flung group of people who can act as free advisers, leads for new businesses, or prospective new hires.

Members of your sales team can see what top clients are up to, for example, and keep in touch with them. You might learn that a friend or colleague, who happens to be a talented IT pro, has just left his job and set the wheels in motion to make him a job offer. There are also your friends' shared links to articles or other information sources that can benefit you in your day-to-day job.

For now, the Outlook Social Connector only supports viewing status updates. Down the road, Microsoft aims to upgrade it such that users can post to Facebook via the plug-in as well, according to Mashable.

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