Jun 292011
 
A segment of a social network

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What would Facebook look like without photos of drunken nights out and tales of misbehaving cats?

It might look a lot like the internal social network at the offices of Nikon Instruments.

The tone is decidedly businesslike, as employees exchange messages about customer orders, new products and closing deals. And the general rule is that “if you don’t want your company president to see it, don’t post it,” said John G. Bivona, a customer relations manager at Nikon Instruments, which makes microscopes.

As social networks increasingly dominate communications in private lives, businesses of all sizes — from tiny start-ups to midsize companies like Nikon to behemoths like Dell — are adopting them for the workplace. Although it is difficult to quantify how many companies use internal social networks, a number of corporate software companies have sensed the opportunity and offer various systems, some free to existing customers, others that charge a fee per user.

It’s one more instance of how consumer technology trends, like the use of tablet computers, are crossing into office life. Because of Facebook, most people are already comfortable with the idea of “following” their colleagues. But in the business world, the connections are between colleagues, not personal friends or family, and the communications are meant to be about work matters — like team projects, production flaws and other routine business issues.

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