Paul and I have blogged about our newly (alpha) launched social network within Oracle, and we have settled on a name, Connect. Anne Truitt Zelenka, who also blogs for Web Worker Daily, wrote about our experiment in her personal blog, although Tim got most of the airtime for his comment turned post. It’s OK, he sent me an apology.
I spent last week in the Bay Area talking to people, evangelizing AppsLab and new web, and pressing the flesh, and it really feels like we’re scratching itches for people. They love the social network and the open forum for idea exchange. Most of all, they want to know where all this is going.
For me, this is the gravy; we’ve got a few thousand people interested enough to care about what happens next.
The key takeaway from my trip is that Paul and Rich have serious iPhone envy.
A close second is that Oracle people desperately want to be connected to each other. We are an increasingly distributed 60,000 plus, and one of the top feature requests we’ve had is to mandate pictures. Apparently, people want to know who they work with on a daily basis; we’re social animals. Who knew?
The idea of a social network as a productivity tool for “ad hoc problem-solving” as Anne mentions and for group work, providing trusted work areas for projects, as Dennis Howlett mentions, has legs from what I have seen in just over a week.
We have big plans for our experiment. Many companies that work with Oracle have large employee presences on social networks, e.g. did you know ABN AMRO has a Facebook network with 3,630 members? I purposely did not pick a tech company (like Cisco, with 5,795) to underline the point. Social networks are no longer a fad, and if you browse these work networks, you’ll find a mix of recent grads who probably carried over a Facebook account from college and newer members who have joined to get a feel for the social network.
I talked about a surprise demographic of users in my last post on Connect, i.e. people who will consume voraciously as long as they trust the network. My guess is this demographic exists everywhere, including ABN AMRO, which is an Oracle customer.
Imagine the power of creating a social extranet between Oracle and its customers, allowing for secure social interaction. Extend the model to include other customers using Oracle. Many of our customer groups like the Customer Advisory Boards bring customers together. What if they could stay in touch and collaborate through a secure social network provided by Oracle?
What about customers not on official boards, due to lack of sponsorship or lack of empty spots on a given council? Removing artificial scarcity from the customer participation “market” allows us to tap the long tail of customers. And yes, I know what the long tail is; I’m not just buzzword-dropping.
Opening this social channel for all our customers could help us understand what they want from our products in a much deeper way. This type of closeness to our customers can only help build the relationship. It’s all about the relationships that come out in a social network, uncovering hidden opportunities.
BTW, I’m a huge fan of the Plain English series of Common Craft videos. Check out the one on social networking.
As you apply this other affiliated groups like Oracle user groups, you begin to see how a social network can be applied to work. It’s not just a way to K.I.T. and broadcast your family vacation pictures.The point is people. People make software. People buy software. People use software.We think people should be the platform, connecting to each other, and this is why we chose the name Connect.