At first glance, some might consider social media and unified communications a bit of an odd couple - with social media's casual nature, filled with texting lingo and personal photos from the weekend, and UC's formal demeanor, laden with meeting notices and conference calls. But in reality, these two communication platforms are coming together to offer users the best of both worlds.
UC signifies the integration of communication services such as IM, VoIP telephony, e-mail and video conferencing. UC is not a single product, but a platform that integrates these communication services with users' presence or availability information to simplify users' ability to connect with colleagues.
There is little doubt companies are embracing UC. According to a recent study by Plantronics, 98 percent of Fortune 1000 companies have deployed UC or are considering a UC deployment in the next two years. Microsoft predicts one billion people will use its Office Communicator Server for making calls over their PCs within three years. The collaboration benefits of consolidating email, voice, IM and video conferencing in one platform are clear; sometimes a message is best sent through email, other issues require real time communication and a text is best, some communication requires the richness of voice and is best done over the "phone".
At the same time, companies are utilizing social media for communication externally, be it for recruiting or marketing outreach. But businesses are also embracing social media capabilities to keep their own employees more connected, collaborative and efficient. When integrated within a UC platform, social media functionality can be harnessed in a secure, controlled manner, which appeals to businesses.
There are two different approaches to social media and UC integration. First, companies are finding ways to work within the social sites that users are already comfortable with like Twitter and Facebook. These services have presence capabilities, mobile options and voice call features in a familiar interface that make it easier for employees to embrace. There's been a lot of "buzz" about Google Buzz, which is sure to make an impact on this space as well.
Alternatively, there are a number of enterprise-grade social services emerging. For example, IBM's Quickr offering gives teams the ability to find experts and share information. And Cisco has created an internal platform called MyCisco, which aggregates information like tasks, messages and news feeds while giving employees the opportunity to connect and participate in communities.
Whatever the method, it's only inevitable that UC and social media will come together. Especially today, with the popularity of the distributed workforce, tools like these that enable employees to connect, communicate and share knowledge in a controlled environment will provide tremendous value.
Do you use social media to make job-related connections or is your company doing something interesting in this space? I'd love to hear your feedback.
Clay Hausmann joined Plantronics in May 2005 as Vice President, Corporate Communications and was promoted to Vice President, Corporate Marketing in May 2006. He is responsible for corporate marketing strategy worldwide and oversees branding, advertising, public relations, research, packaging and web marketing programs for the company. Prior to joining Plantronics, Mr. Hausmann served as Managing Director of the San Francisco and Los Angeles offices of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.