Is your company ready for a private social network?

Mixed signals. That’s what’s out there when it comes to social networks.

A few weeks back some UK companies approved of banning social networks in the workplace. A few years back organizations such as the CIA embraced such collaborative spaces. They created their own private network called A-Space, and another information sharing hub, Intellipedia.

But did you know that despite the rush for ‘corporatized’ LinkedIn or Facebook groups, many institutions have adopted private social networks?

Sometimes called ‘walled gardens’ these networks are created using free of paid platforms where smaller communities can share their ideas and –to use that overused word again -engage.

Two examples of this trend:

ResearchGate. This social engagement hub for scientists built by scientists may not be as well known as other networks, but it’s quite a hangout. Population 400,000! While groups on Facebook plan boycotts of oil companies or befriend brands, these specialized networks discuss topics such as the Human adenovirus A-31 genomic sequence, or neural networks and artificial intelligence. Groups range from American Society of Plant Biologists to a one discussing Zebrafish husbandry.

Pluck is one of the popular platforms used by media, insurance and marketing companies. It offers more than the bare template, lending editorial support – for what it calls a “curated, professionally produced content library.” I find it interesting that Pluck is not standing around building fortifications around its clients’ private social network, but making it easy for them to provide pass-through integration with Facebook, for instance.

You know your organization is ready for a private social network when you see the following signs:

  • You mention a document posted to the web site and you get 80 percent blank stares. You mention a statistic about your competition, and 95 people already know about it –via Facebook.
  • People complain that they can’t find anything on the company Intranet. They whine that “the search engine is so nineteen-ninetees.”
  • You overhear that there are unauthorized LinkedIn groups within the company because they hate having to share ideas via email
  • Someone in HR complains that someone has created a FriendFeed room in which designers are chatting; the guys in Marketing are equally ticked off.

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