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Social Collaboration and E-Mail

Part of the Social Collaboration For Dummies Cheat Sheet

A successful social collaboration network ought to replace some of the communication and collaboration that takes place via e-mail, particularly in the form of e-mail lists used to manage ongoing discussions and reply-to-all e-mail threads. E-mail habits are so ingrained that change often comes slowly, but here are things to try:

  • Tackle mailing lists first. E-mail was never designed as a medium for long-running discussions with lots of participants and quoted text from each other's messages. Mailing list participants ought to appreciate the value of threaded discussions on a social collaboration network that are easier to follow and more accommodating to links and multimedia content. When you make a one-to-one swap of a mailing list for a social group, you also provide collaborators with other tools for document sharing and other productive modes of collaboration.

  • Encourage social collaboration for team conversations. Any e-mail message with more than one recipient could be a good candidate for a post on a social collaboration network. Reply-to-all e-mail threads too often become snarled and confused as recipients are added to a discussion or dropped from it. Mailing lists avoid some of this confusion by setting the default "Reply-to" e-mail header to the list address. But in an ad hoc collaboration, some e-mail recipients inevitably click "Reply" instead of "Reply To All," sending a reply to one person rather than the group.

  • Recognize where e-mail still makes sense. E-mail remains effective for one-to-one communications and has to be understood as the superior solution for most communications that extend outside the organization. You may be able to invite close external collaborators into a collaboration group within your network, but by definition an enterprise social network is private and cannot include everyone.

  • Consider e-mail integration. Try e-mail plugins like Jive for Outlook or Harmon.ie for Outlook.

    Jive for Outlook makes it possible to take a message received by e-mail and convert it to a Jive discussion, posting your answer there.

    Harmon.ie's tool brings integrates networked collaboration, conversation, and document sharing into the e-mail user interface, linking to Microsoft's SharePoint, Yammer, and Office 365 collaboration environments. Outlook users can interact with discussions or shared files hosted in SharePoint (on premises or in the cloud version that's part of Office 365). To minimize version confusion, the plugin also encourages users to share files on the collaboration platform, rather than transmitting them as file attachments. Harmon.ie now also provides similar integration with Yammer and SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud service for file sharing.

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