The phrase “business collaboration” used to bring to mind images of people sitting around a boardroom brainstorming, perhaps with a platter of bagels and doughnuts on a mahogany table. These days, collaboration is more likely to take place online. The Web 2.0 world has expanded business horizons by enabling communication of novel concepts and ideas via the Internet. Web 2.0 tools like social media, Skype and wikis allow individuals working on similar projects to find each other and share information. Collaboration is faster, broader and better than ever with these online venues.

Social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and others allow individuals to not only find topics of interest, but also find people who are interested in the same topic. Individuals in your social network can qualify the people or the information provided. Therefore, users feel confident that the information and the source are credible. These platforms can allow businesses to create a community of individuals who are interested in their product—in order to facilitate feedback, brainstorming and buzz, as well as personalized customer service.

For instance, BBGeeks.com began a campaign on Twitter and, as a result, has gained an audience of 500 or more individuals. This is equivalent to having 500 qualified or warm leads for a company’s product or service. From this campaign, the company gained a pre-established forum which allows them to listen to real customers. They can receive instant feedback via polls and surveys, information they can use to improve their site, as well as driving traffic to their website by publishing relevant tweets. The audience also facilitates article exposure, by retweeting, and generates ideas for new articles when questions and opinions are shared through comments. The conversation that takes place through Twitter has improved BBGeeks.com’s traffic, content development, revenue, and promotions.

Some corporations have embraced Web 2.0 and its potential for expanding the network of professionals in the workplace. However, experts warn that it is not a replacement for social interaction. Web 2.0 tools are not a substitute for face-to-face discussions, or in the case of businesses, for a focus group or consumer panel. The tools are simply designed to promote interactions between individuals who may not have met because of regional or schedule constraints.

The main point of Web 2.0 tools is to allow communication and ideas to freely flow among individuals to improve workplace productivity through collective intelligence. Social networking tools are not the only Web 2.0 tools available for this type of interaction. Wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, Skype and online document sharing are each ways of sharing information online between people or groups of people.

Document sharing online is a particularly nifty tool. If you haven’t tried it, I encourage you to check it out. The way it works is that you can view, edit and save a document by viewing it online—and you can invite others to view and edit it too, all at the same time. This means that one definitive document replaces all of the versions and drafts that previously would have been made before settling on a final version—no more wasted paper, trips back and forth by couriers, or confusion. You can do your job faster and provide information to others more quickly, as well.

When a variety of voices are able to come together via the World Wide Web, the ideas become richer and the innovation becomes more relevant in society.  If your company can tap into this network of collaboration, your business will benefit—maybe in some startling ways.

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