Social collaboration

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Social collaboration refers to processes that help multiple people interact and share information to achieve any common goal. Such processes find their 'natural' environment on the internet, where collaboration and social dissemination of information are made easier by current innovations.

Sharing concepts on a digital collaboration environment often facilitates a "brainstorming" process, where new concepts may emerge due to the contributions of individuals, professional or otherwise. A crucial concept behind social collaboration is that 'ideas are everywhere.' Individuals are able to share their ideas, as it is not limited to professionals, but rather the general public who wishes to become involved.

Social collaboration is also known as enterprise social networking, and the products to support it are often branded enterprise social networks (ESNs). [1]

Driving Forces of Social Collaboration[edit]

In the book Collaboration: What Makes It Work (Mattessich, Murray-Close & Monsey, 2001)[2] the authors describe Success Factors that influence the success of collaborations by non-profit organizations:

  1. Environmental Factors
    • The community has a history of collaboration & cooperation
    • The community views participants as reliable and competent
    • The community supports the mission of the group
  2. Membership Characteristics
    • Participants share a mutual understanding and respect for each other
    • The group includes representatives from each segment of the community who will be affected by its activities
    • Participants believe they will benefit from their involvement and that the advantages of the collaboration will offset costs
    • Participants are able to compromise
  3. Process & Structure
    • Participants feel ownership in both the process and the outcome
    • Participants are open to the different ways of organizing and accomplishing work
    • The group understands their roles, rights and responsibilities and how to carry them out
    • The group is able to adjust through major changes
  4. Communication
    • Participants interact often, keep each other updated, discuss issues openly, and share important information within and outside of the group
    • Participants establish personal connections with each other
  5. Purpose
    • Goals and objectives of the group are clear to all participants and can be easily attained
    • Participants share the same vision and agree on the mission, objectives and strategy/
    • The mission, goals, or approach of the group differ from the mission, goals or approach of the participant's organizations
  6. Resources
    • The group has adequate funds, a consistent financial base, staff and materials needed to support the group's operations
    • The group has a skilled leader, someone with organizing and interpersonal skills who acts with fairness, who is respected by the participants

Social Collaboration vs. Social Networking[edit]

Social collaboration is related to social networking, with the distinction that social collaboration is more group-centric than individual-centric. Generally speaking, social networking means socializing for a person or professional purpose or benefit, for example, LinkedIn. Social collaboration means socializing to achieve a common goal. Social networking services generally focus on individuals sharing messages in a more-or-less undirected way and receiving messages from many sources into a single personalized activity feed. Social collaboration services, on the other hand, focus on the identification of groups and collaboration spaces in which messages are explicitly directed at the group and the group activity feed is seen the same way by everyone.

Social collaboration may refer to time-bound collaborations with an explicit goal to be completed or perpetual collaborations in which the goal is knowledge sharing (e.g. community of practice, online community).

Social Collaboration vs. Crowdsourcing[edit]

Social collaboration is similar to crowdsourcing as it involves individuals working together toward a common goal. Andrea Grover, curator of the 2006 crowdsourcing art show, Phantom Captain: Art and Crowdsourcing, explained in an interview that collaboration among individuals is an appealing experience, because participation is "a low investment, with the possibility of a high return."[3] Social collaboration appeals to young entrepreneurs because of this notion.

Crowdsourcing is a method for harnessing specific information from a large, diverse group of people. [4] Unlike social collaboration which involves lots of communication and cooperation among the large group of people, crowdsourcing is more like individuals work toward the common goal spontaneously. Therefore the process of working involves less communication and responses.

Reputation boost
Crowdsourcing Social Collaboration
information-centric production-centric
narrow focus broad focus
under control equal partnership
community assisted inter-group

Social Collaboration vs. E-mail[1][edit]

Social collaboration does not necessarily replace e-mail.

Compared with social collaboration, the e-mail has these weakness:

  • E-mail discussions can be confusing. In any extended discussion, context is easily lost in a mess of quoted text from prior messages.
  • Private replies restrict the flow of information. If anyone included in the distribution list unintentionally clicks Reply, a message intended for the whole group will be transmitted to only one person.
  • Reply to All can cause trouble. Most organizations have a story about the person who click Reply to All by mistake and wound up sending a rude or disrespectful comment to the whole company.
  • Sharing information is sometimes too easy. Proprietary information easily can be shared outside the organization, either unintentionally or maliciously.
  • Version control can be difficult through e-mail. When collaborators exchange documents through e-mail, there is room for confusion about who has the latest version.
  • E-mail strains IT resources. E-mail distribution of documents consumes more bandwidth and storage than necessary because a complete copy of the document is transmitted to every recipient.
  • E-mail is private by default. Information that ought to be shared more widely can end uo trapped in the inbox of one person or a small number of people.

Social collaboration dosen't hold all the advantages, however. Here are some of the strengths of e-mail:

  • E-mail is an Internet standard. If you have the e-mail addresses, you can send e-mail to any e-mail addresses.
  • E-mail programs work together. You can use the same e-mail software for both internal and external communication, and you can send an e-mail to someone using a different program than he will use to receive it. In contrast, every social collaboration system is isolated. This may be an advantage in terms of organizational control, but it dose mean you can't invite an outsider into a discussion without specifically creating an account for him on your social collaboration system.
  • E-mail support is widely available. E-mail is an established technology for use in corporate settings, which means that supporting tools for administration, archiving, and compliance are also well established.
  • E-mail works well for private messages. Social collaboration systems may provide their own private messaging systems, but most employees still find sending an e-mail faster, easer, and more familiar. Conservative organizations may also be more willing to trust e-mail with private messages on sensitive topics or the transmission of documents, such as drafts of contracts.

Applications of Social Collaboration[edit]

The Future of Social Collaboration[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Carr, D. F., & ebrary, I. (2014;2013;). Social collaboration for dummies (1st ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  2. ^ Mattessich, P., Murray-Close, M., & Monsey, B. (2001). Collaboration: What Makes It Work.
  3. ^ DeVun, Leah. "Looking at how crowds produce and present art." Wired News. Web. 19 Nov. 2009. <>.
  4. ^ "Crowdsourcing and collaboration for journalists". 2011-06-23. 

Further reading[edit]