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What is social collaboration software?

Social collaboration software (SCS) is a vast marketplace of platforms designed to handle everything from knowledge management to enterprise application development. Companies use social collaboration tools to communicate one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-one, when threaded, forum-style discussions or wikis are used. They can be project or process-focused, customer-focused, messaging-focused, or any combination of these. Social collaboration software can be a single platform that serves an entire enterprise, department, or team, or it may be an amalgamation of solutions that together form a collaborative, virtual work environment.

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What are the types of social collaboration software?

There are three main categories of social collaboration software:

  • Enterprise Communication
  • Enterprise Content Management
  • Social Collaboration Suites

Enterprise communication

Probably the most recognized social collaboration category, enterprise communication platforms are essential in a world where widely-distributed, remote teams are becoming more common than co-located teams.

Whether it’s via an internal social network with threaded discussions and newsfeeds, such as Yammer or Jive, or through an instant messaging-centered platform like Slack, this category of social collaboration tools focuses on the exchange of knowledge, usually in an indexed, searchable database with unique user logins and options to communicate one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-one.

Of course, these solutions are not necessarily limited to the above functions. Many have a file sharing component, employee engagement tools such as pulse surveys, video conferencing, and wikis. Some even offer telephony, either built-in, or via integrations with VoIP providers.

In some cases, enterprise social tools can be used to communicate with external users as well as within your own company. One example would be a product knowledge base where employees collaborate with customer “power users” to ask and answer support questions, or elicit consumer feedback for product design.

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Note: Some may classify mobile device management (MDM) or bring-your-own-device (BYOD) tools under the umbrella of enterprise communication. However, for the purposes of this guide, we’ll focus instead on instant messaging or social network-style platforms. If you’re looking for these types of solutions, we invite you to visit our MDM/BYOD Software Guide.

Enterprise content management

Another common type of social collaboration platform, enterprise content management systems are quickly gaining traction among business users. This is especially true for sales and marketing teams, as content marketing and sales enablement become increasingly important functions.

Of course, collaborative content management platforms are important to departments beyond sales and marketing. IT may rely on a collaborative content management solution to distribute reports, warehouse data for ETL, or provide the backbone of an internal help desk system or corporate intranet. HR can utilize enterprise content management platforms to distribute and collect new hire documents.

Solutions in this subcategory provide a collaborative sandbox where employees can work together on documents or multimedia. They may also include a development environment for platform-hosted systems (such as Microsoft SharePoint), a text editor and publishing platform (such as WordPress), an automatic backup component (such as Box or Dropbox), and other collaborative, content-centered functionality.

Irrespective of type, most content-focused collaboration solutions will offer user and/or role-based permissions, a search function, file versioning, synchronization, audit control, and a method of commenting/reviewing individual pieces of content.

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Social collaboration suites

Last but certainly not least, the rise of collaboration suites — platforms with functionality from all three categories we’ve outlined — is not to be ignored.

Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, and similar solutions offer an end-to-end solution with ubiquitous access for the whole enterprise. You can implement communication, sharing, productivity, networking, and collaboration solutions as part of a single platform, at an affordable, per-user price.

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