Have any of you ever heard of Formspring.me? Neither had I, until recently. Mashable.com, the popular social media blog, recently reported that Formspring raised $10MM dollars in its second round of funding. I mention that to demonstrate that this stuff is cutting edge. But what is it, and why does it matter to the enterprise?
Social Inquiry Defined
At its core, Formspring is essentially a Q&A platform. You find a friend (or stranger) ask them a question, using your name or not, and they answer it. Some of the content is highly personal, some of it is completely superficial, but in essence it is an always-on, always-open Q&A session. It’s the Twitter version of the traditional Q&A, and aside from being unbelievably addicting, I think it represents a next big thing in enterprise social media, both internally and externally. (For this post I’ll focus on internal, but the opportunities are nearly as limitless outside as they are inside.)
Simplicity Drives Usage
Imagine if, with a simple search and a one sentence question, you could access the insights and thinking of practically every employee within your organization. Imagine if you could, in a matter of moments on your Smartphone, answer a question on the company’s updated approach to manufacturing safety or its new benefits package. For that matter, imagine you could ask the manager of supply chain in Asia how they managed to get employee buy-in to the radical changes they’ve already adopted and you’ve been banging your head against the wall to make any headway on at all. And you could do it without spending three weeks trying to schedule a meeting. You could do it in minutes.
Easy to Use Means Increased Usage
For all the talk about the use of social tools for internal collaboration, few companies can truly say that they’ve opened up the intellectual capital of their folks to everyone else within the organization. Have you ever experienced this? You need to get a meeting with someone, but he’s busy, very busy, three weeks and still no appointment busy. But he has no problem finding time to update his Facebook status every 15 minutes … everyday? I’d argue that the reason is that most of the tools companies are currently using are too time-intensive or too complex or too inconvenient. There’s a reason why employee participation on intranets is lower than that of Facebook. Convenience for both sides of the value equation is the key, and tools like Formspring are nothing if not easy to use.
The Need is Growing
Ultimately, Formspring may not be the tool for use inside the enterprise, it’s far too early to tell. And there are a number of other related, but slightly different tools including Yammer and SocialCast, essentially behind the firewall, enterprise versions of Facebook. But I believe this is a near certainty: in our increasingly 140-character world, a quick-and-dirty way to collaborate and search for insights within the enterprise will not only be something employees eventually demand, it’ll be something they’ll actually use. And it’ll help your company build a smarter, more effective, more engaged workforce.
Grant Toups is a senior associate with PulsePoint Group. He can be reached at email@example.com.