I read a fascinating piece in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell, one of my favorite thought-provoking columnists and authors. The piece dealt with how social networking is perceived, and how it has, and can impact activism around the world.
Gladwell makes some great points about the differences between 'traditional activism' such as the Greensboro sit-ins and, what he terms 'weak ties' with social networks. Gladwell goes on to describe these weak ties using Twitter and Facebook as an example:
"Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life"
Gladwell makes a great point. I have previously, and much less eloquently stated that, "Facebook is for the friends you used to know, and those currently know, while Twitter is for the friends you want to know"
So where does Chatter, Salesforce's tool for enabling the Social Enterprise, fit into all of this?
I think the first point to call out, is that Chatter is not for social activism. Chatter is a private, trusted, and secure social collaboration tool. Chatter can certainly take advantage of other social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but Chatter challenges Gladwell's notion of weak ties by allowing individuals, groups, and records to follow each other for a specific, tangible reason: to benefit the organization by tapping into the tacit knowledge of its greatest assets and promoting collaboration. I have experienced this firsthand within-side Salesforce where the entire company uses Chatter as a means of communication for activities such as working groups to annual performance plans.
If, as I mentioned earlier, "Facebook is for the friends you used to know, and currently know, while Twitter is for the friends you want to know" then Chatter is for people and records you need to know. There is a strong tie between networking and collaboration, and outcome: increased productivity and organizational knowledge for starters.
Gladwell's article is a great, fresh perspective on social networking. Do yourself a favor, and take five minutes to read it.