How to tame the social network at work

What you don't know -- or refuse to learn -- about social networking could undermine your business

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"Yammer gives our leadership team the opportunity to see which employees are consistently contributing ideas and adding to the conversation," Silva says. "And because we operate in five locations worldwide, it gives our employees the opportunity to engage in any discussion, no matter where it started."

When Synaptics, a $500 million maker of touchscreen technology, was looking for a "21st-century communications tool" that allowed people to collaborate 24/7, it turned to Broadvision's Clearvale, says Jim Harrington, senior vice president of global human resources for the company.

"Too many times when you send out email people just delete it without reading," he says. "Clearvale enables us to build communities inside our company that are able to communicate with external communities for things like recruiting. It also allows us to communicate between different internal communities such as marketing and product development, or between product development and human resources."

Internally or externally, the rest of the world is adopting social media. If your company isn't there, they'll just end up talking about you behind your back.

"The first thing you have to understand is that, if you're not present on social media, if you don't have brand and corporate advocates in these spaces, you'll have no opportunities to address concerns and correct problems," says IBM's Rooney. "You're not going to fix it or protect your brand by ignoring them. If you're engaging authentically and directly, if you exhibit openness and a willingness to listen, you've got a much greater opportunity to change hearts and minds."

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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