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October 2009 | Volume 12 / Number 10
Feature Story

Socializing the Enterprise

By: Paula Bernier (News - Alert)

Social networking sites like Facebook (News - Alert) may soon be coming to an enterprise near you. That could open employees and businesses to a raft of new communications and marketing possibilities.

“This is a once-in-a-century communications platform,” says Paul Dunay, global managing director of services and social marketing at Avaya (News - Alert) and author of “Facebook Marketing for Dummies,” adding that the social networking phenomenon embodied by Facebook is on par with world-changing developments such as the printing press and radio.

Speaking during the Avaya pre-conference seminar “The Social Enterprise – Are You Ready for It?” at the recent ITEXPO (News - Alert) West, Dunay noted that 5 billion minutes per day are spent on Facebook, which has surpassed email in popularity. He added Facebook has 250 million users, which includes one out of five Internet users; is the web’s second largest video site; and lays claim to being the largest photo site, with 1 billion photos uploaded monthly. Because Facebook and sites like it are populated by real people with real interests, marketers can potentially leverage that to deliver more targeted marketing and advertising, search and more, he says.

“It’s not just a social network, it’s a communications platform,” Dunay says.

Playing off that theme, Avaya at the Aug. 31 event in Los Angeles talked about Avaya Facephone, which it described as a prototype application and delivery platform that could help expand the use of social networking into the business world. While Avaya indicated it hasn’t taken definitive steps to productize Facephone, any of the 10,000-plus companies in the Avaya DevConnect (News - Alert) program could probably elect to build applications bringing all or parts of this concept to market.

Businesses & The Social Web

  • 60 percent of American companies interact on the social Web
  • 93 percent believe a company should have a presence in social media
  • 85 percent said they should not just be present but interact
  • 56 percent reported a stronger connection when they do interact

Source: Cone Business in Social Media study

Introducing Avaya Facephone, Reinhard Klemm, research scientist for collaborative applications research at Avaya Labs (News - Alert) Research, notes that Facebook doesn’t distinguish between work colleagues and friends, and that can be a problem because employees can inadvertently leak company information as a result. But Facephone could be used as an overlay on top of Facebook so when you want to talk to a coworker on this platform you can do so securely, and without first having to “friend” that coworker, says Klemm, adding “What you say in Facephone stays in Facephone.”


This could also enable workers to interface with others in the same industry whom they haven’t even met. One party could send out a note via Facebook requesting help with a specific problem, and Facephone would provide suitable individuals to address the issue. The person with the question could then use Facephone tools to get presence information on those experts, decide on the appropriate method of communications to reach the expert of choice, and launch that communications session without ever leaving Facebook. The expert, meanwhile, could access the profile of the individual asking the question to get a better understanding of who’s making the inquiry.

Beyond employee-to-employee communications, this Facephone idea also addresses customer-to-enterprise communications (enabling a rich two-way customer care channel) and customer-to-customer communications (allowing “expert customers” to sing the praises of a company’s products to others, for example) via social networks, according to Avaya.

As Jon Alperin, director of developer marketing for Avaya DevConnect, notes, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are creating a flurry of entirely new contact channels. “It’s a whole new way of interfacing to the enterprise.”

But while users’ social networks and affiliations facilitated through these services are new, many of the underlying technologies and services that could help social networking move to the next level are already part of the unified communications lexicon. IT

11 Ways Facebook Will Change Your Life

Paul Dunay (News - Alert), author of “Facebook Marketing for Dummies,” offers his prognostications about what to expect around social networking in the future.

Search

Don’t like the baseline results search typically delivers? Companies in the search business could tap into an individual’s personal network to look at the searches and used results of a person’s friends and colleagues to deliver more targeted results.

Amazon

In a move toward more targeted marketing, online storefronts like Amazon could offer purchase suggestions by considering what the shopper’s friends and coworkers have bought.

Gaming

Xbox Live already allows players to trash talk while playing. Next is greater integration between gaming and social networks like Facebook. Starting this fall users will be able to send and receive status updates from the social networks from their Xbox consoles; invite their Facebook friends to play; and on some titles Xbox gamers will be able to send screenshots and score updates to Facebook.

Magazines

Want to have a more stimulating dinner party? Online news sources could show people what magazines and other sites their friends and colleagues are reading. In fact, The Huffington Post in August introduced HuffPost Social News, which uses the Facebook Connect feature to aggregate and show which stories a user’s Facebook friends have recommended or commented on, and to track what the individual reads, making it available on that user’s Facebook page.

Reality TV

So you think you can dance? The idea here is to put Facebook on the TV so viewers can comment on and converse about television shows. That, Dunay says, could enable TV advertisers to glean audience information. In fact, Verizon (News - Alert) FiOS this summer launched The Widget Bazaar, which allows TV viewers on its service to follow Tweets related to what they’re watching. They can also log onto Facebook or ESPN (News - Alert) Fantasy Football applications through the bazaar. Meanwhile, the FiOS TV feature Internet Video allows Home Media DVR subscribers to search and view user-generated online videos from sites such as blip.tv, Dailymotion and Veoh.

Shopping

Forgot your shopping list? GPS and active RFID could enable location-based services in which stores or brands recognize the whereabouts of shoppers and share that information with online friends, who could make purchase recommendations in the vicinity, or to send messages promoting goods in the store related to the individual’s interests, as expressed on that person’s social network account.

Customer Service

Want to hear a familiar voice? A call center could request the ability to tap into a Facebook account in an effort to match a caller with someone with common interests or with a rep who’s helped one of his or her friends or colleagues in the past.

Interviews

High schoolers are big into social networking, so why not allow them to apply and interview for college through these portals, right? In fact, this is already happening, and Facebook is working to expand the possibilities for college applicants and interviewees.

Health services

Talk about your socialized medicine! The idea here is to allow individuals to interface with doctors via video or other communications through the Facebook site.

Social communicator

Facebook could be the conduit through which to enable various modes of communications with your social demographic.

Social seminars

In what Dunay says could be a WebEx killer, Facebook could play host to webinars.

» Internet Telephony Magazine Table of Contents



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