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Social collaboration mimics real life team and project collaboration except that it is done on the Internet or on the company network. Yes, we all agree that there is nothing as good as face-to-face meetings, but what if the team members reside in different parts of the region or the world? How will they access tasks, documents, projects and real-time updates remotely?

This is where social collaboration comes in. It is often setup as a secure centralized workspace on the Internet, also referred to as the cloud. The secured cloud portal is accessible from anywhere as long as you have Internet access.

Here are some of the core features and advantages of social collaboration tools:

  • It has built in communication, collaboration and engagement tools that provide real-time transparency to tasks, projects and updates between team members.
  • It offers more effective modes of communication and productivity with fewer face-to-face meetings and email based discussions.
  • Create private projects limited to self and/or limited team members, or create unrestricted projects/tasks transparent to all internal network users.
  • Some networks offer options to create virtual departments with built in employee self-service features catered to new hires and existing employees or team members.
  • Most networks also offer built in external user interface to collaborate with the clients, vendors and partners without them having access to company’s internal network or content.
  • It has built in document and files repository options. Easily store documents in a private folder or make it accessible to all company employees, associates, team members or selective personnel.
  • Manage your profile and organization chart. Create a visual map of your tasks and projects. Generate reports and measure performances with built in analytics.
  • Many networks offer integration with external business tools and apps such as GoToMeeting, Google apps, Microsoft Exchange, Zendesk to manage help desk tickets, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), external documents repository tools like Dropbox and Box and many more apps.

Every social collaboration solution is different. Some offer the same features as their competitors within a different user interface. In order to understand some of these services, I highly recommend looking up cloud based service providers such as Podio, Btrix24, Mangoapps, SocialText, Liquid Planner, Wrike, Igloo and Casual.

How do you know which one of the networks or cloud enterprise is right for your business?

The four most important factors to consider in decision-making are:

1.Usability: Does it offer a user-friendly interface for you, your employees, associates and clients? Do you find it easy to learn and teach others how to use it? Is it simple to understand how it works? Use a free trial or other means of evaluation to get answers to these questions.

2.Features: Learn and compare the features of similar solutions. Then, assess your needs to understand which one of the networks or cloud enterprise fits your business needs.

3.Cost: Does it meet your budget? And more importantly, will it help you be more efficient and improve productivity?

4.Credibility: If you are a small business then it is important for you to know if they offer reliable support. Do they offer a secure interface? What are other users saying about their experience?

Like anything else, there are some learning curves in the beginning to fully understand social collaboration. What collaboration tools have worked best for your business?