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    Using Enterprise Microblogging for Q&A

    In Star Trek, the crew of the Enterprise could get an answer to almost any question instantly, simply by asking the Computer out loud. While we’re not quite there yet, with countless websites, search engines, and social networks providing access to almost unlimited data, we’re pretty damn close.

    The problem is that while automated search results are helpful, they often provide more information that you can (or want to) process. So how do we filter through all the results to get the best answers? The solution often involves turning to people. We ask our friends and colleagues for their insight and opinions. For example, on Twitter and Facebook, many people ask questions to the network they’ve built, rather than “Googling” for the answer. If you need to know who sings a certain song, or where you can get a replacement battery for your Macbook, odds are someone in your community will quickly provide a response. The power of querying your friends led both Google and Microsoft to pay Twitter millions to add public tweets in the results of their massive search engines.

    As the use of question-and-answers over social technologies increases, businesses are looking at how they can provide similar services internally. That’s where a secure enterprise microblogging solution, such as Socialtext Signals, comes in handy. Signals allows colleagues to conduct Twitter-like Q&A, but do so internally, eliminating any concerns that company confidential information might be discussed in public.

    With Signals, you can ask questions openly to your colleagues in a private setting, and get informed answers quickly. This represents a huge departure from past technologies. In the past, if you had an HR-related question, you most likely would have sent an email to someone in the HR department, and that’s if you even knew the proper person to contact. Depending on the size of your company, you might spend 20 minutes first, just trying to identify who to reach out to. Microblogging works much differently. If you ask the same question openly via Signals, anyone in HR has the opportunity to respond, or you might even get an answer back from someone in Engineering or Sales, who recently had the same question and now knows the answer. Additionally, that conversation is now discoverable by everyone, rather than locked away in just your individual inbox.

    Similar to how social networks provide advantages over Googling, Q&A via Signals also has advantages versus standard intranet searches:

    • Search indexes don’t (yet!) contain the information inside our heads. I can’t search the company intranet for “Does anyone have connections with a graphic artist that could help us with our new website?” Being able to access the wealth of tactic knowledge from across the entire organization is incredibly valuable.
    • Search results don’t factor in the human traits like opinion and experience which your colleagues can provide. While automated results are quick and plentiful, they may not always provide the most useful information.
    • Search is only good when you know what you’re looking for. If I want to find “Who is the Sales Exec for the Acme account”, an intranet search will probably find that from a page or profile. But an intranet search won’t help much with “Does anyone remember the name of the company that launched last week saying their engine is 10% faster than ours?”

    As you can see, enterprise microblogging can empower your entire organization to help one another. Questions get answered faster, enabling people to spend more time on business tasks, rather than searching for information.

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    About This Blog

    Weblog on gaining business results from social software.

    On this blog, Socialtext staffers and customers explore how companies can gain the most business value from their use of enterprise social software, including microblogging, social networking, filtered activity streams, widget-based dashboards, blogs and wikis.


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