Going Social with SharePoint 2013

See how social networking is playing a big role in Microsoft's updated collaboration platform

We live in an increasingly social world. Ever since websites like SixDegrees.com and Friendster—prototypes of soon-to-be social media giants like Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace—the world has been getting smaller in a lot of ways.

Historically, aside from the marketing department, the role of social networking in the corporate world has been undervalued. Many CEOs think of social media as a tool for marketing their public image—and that's it. However, a growing percentage of companies are beginning to use social enterprise to make the workplace more personal and foster collaboration—a trend that Microsoft picked up on quickly.

SharePoint Server, Microsoft's premiere collaboration platform, serves businesses by maximizing efficiency through content management and collaboration, which is exactly why users logging into the 2013 update will notice an array of new social features aimed at encouraging knowledge sharing and discussion.

Here are some of the latest social features that the SharePoint 2013 upgrade has to offer:

Working Social with Yammer

In July of 2012, Microsoft acquired the enterprise social network called Yammer, but the merger came too late in the game to be seriously integrated into the initial SharePoint 2013 launch. However, recently the SharePoint Team blog has announced that Yammer will now be included with all Office 365 Enterprise plans.

The inclusion of the Yammer expansion is great news for businesses seeking to improve their work environment's social atmosphere because it essentially transforms the concept of Facebook into an easy-to-use social network focused entirely around your business—complete with a Newsfeed, “Like” button, internal messages, sharing capabilities, mobile platforms, and much more. Yammer is a valuable social enterprise solution by itself, but when combined with the collaborative tools of SharePoint, it's a corporate necessity.

New Community Portal Sites

In the 2010 versions of SharePoint, a user could initiate a conversation with other members by adding a discussion list to sites. However, SharePoint 2013 has made being social even easier through new Community Sites, which give users a forum for structuring and encouraging a dialogue with other members in your organization.

Newsfeed

Much like Facebook, the Newsfeed tool in social enterprise serves as a display board on which you can browse through information from other users or things you are following, such as people, documents, sites, and trending tags. The posts are sorted in reverse chronological order (again, like your favorite social media site), and shows the last 20 items. You can also click on the Everyone feed to show posts or replies from all users across your organization, not just those you follow.

Social Searching

Enhanced search features with social components have been added to SharePoint 2013. For instance, instead of just displaying contact and organizational information, search results also show authored documents and project history, and the new “hover panel” allows you to look at item details by holding the cursor over it.

Lync and Skype Enterprise Features

Microsoft's Lync enterprise communication application is highlighted in the 2013 update of SharePoint. With Lync, participants of an online meeting can easily pull up the other person's contact info through the Active Directory. Also, with the help of OneNote, meeting participants can share and collaborate on editing notes. SharePoint also incorporates Skype, giving organizations an easy way to connect with colleagues, customers, and potential clients all around the world.

The “Central Filing Cabinet”

You can store all of your Exchange emails and SharePoint documents in a Site Mailbox, which Microsoft calls the “central filing cabinet.” Simply drag and drop the item you wish to store into the Site Mailbox, where it will be instantly filed and organized in a place only site members can access and edit.

Incentive-Driven Discussion Board

Discussions are a huge part of SharePoint's new Community Sites. Thus, the platform provides incentives to promote participation through a point system that shows up on your Members page. For example, say you are browsing through the community and respond to a post by your coworker Paul. Paul then marks your answer as a best reply, which earns you reputation points and improves your rank within the community.

The People Card

Users of SharePoint 2013 can make a personal profile with “About Me” information, such as your interests, contact details, and social connections. The People Card also includes a profile photo, activity feeds from SharePoint, status updates, and Facebook and LinkedIn account information.

Organized Multi-tasking

The My Site page allows you to view your tasks across all groups in one convenient location, making it easier to control and manage multiple projects. The tasks are searchable, and presented in a timeline based on when the project was created.

The world may be getting smaller in some ways, but through the concept of social networking, organizations can maximize their efficiency, both internally (worker-to-worker) and externally (producer-to-consumer).

Of course, going social is about more than having the latest and greatest tools. Starting social collaboration projects just because you can is pointless. Instead, social enterprise needs to be designed with a specific goal in mind, and coupled with a knowledgeable insider who knows what SharePoint is able to achieve.

Learn how you can achieve your organization's goals with social enterprise by talking to one of our Microsoft-certified SharePoint consultants today.