One of the biggest paradigm shifts in today’s computing environment is the influence of social networking, and how it affects day-to-day business activities. So how will SharePoint 2010 (news, site) get with the times when it comes to social networking?

The same engine that helps you upload and share pictures of your last backyard BBQ is also helping Fortune 500 businesses make billions of dollars through creative marketing campaigns. In fact, the 2010 #1 ranked Fortune 500 company, Walmart, has a Facebook page with nearly 1 million fans and counting! The idea of not being part of a social network like Twitter or Facebook has become much more uncommon than it was in the early days of SharePoint 2007.

MySites in SharePoint 2007 are looking pretty bland these days when compared to modern social networking sites. In each of the sections below I’ll show you what’s new and improved, and it won’t take long to identify Microsoft’s commitment towards the social experience in SharePoint 2010.

1. New and Improved Profile Page

The SharePoint 2010 user profile page is the beneficiary of a lot of great design work by the SharePoint product team. It has also benefited from a lot of useful functionality similar to the features you are used to using on your Facebook and Twitter pages. A lot of these features are self-explanatory, but I’ll mention each one in its own right.

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SharePoint 2010 MySites
 

  • Overview -- This page includes a quick snapshot of your social content. It includes the note board (which functions like a “wall” for various postings), a small colleague web part and another web part showing your commonalities with other users. It also displays basic profile data, your picture and presence information linking back to Office Communicator.
  • Organization -- This page includes a very slick org chart that is bigger than the smaller version on the overview page. It shows your peers to the right and your superiors above you in a top to bottom hierarchy.

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SharePoint 2010 - MySites Org Chart
 

  • Content -- Includes content like recently touched documents and blog posts.
  • Tags and Notes -- Not much need for an explanation here. Start tagging and posting notes on other pages and your activity will be seen here.
  • Colleagues -- A running list of employees in your organization that you consider colleagues. When on another user’s profile page, you can add them as a colleague. You can also see suggested colleagues from your own colleague tab.
  • Memberships -- This displays the distribution lists and sites that you belong to. Items can be made private if need be.

2. Dynamic activity feed

The activity feed aggregates content you track and content you publish into a dynamic listing much like what you would find on your Facebook news feed. This listing is customizable and the SharePoint team has made this feature highly extensible. I’m betting that many 3rd party developers will include tracking abilities for custom actions included in their apps.

3. Central Picture Library

This is a very interesting and useful addition to SharePoint 2010. Basically they’ve added a better way to manage your users’ profile pictures by utilizing a central repository that can then be pushed out to AD for usage in other applications.

It will automatically resize the image to fit the different specs required for the SharePoint profile page as well as AD and/or other apps that can utilize it. This has generally not been possible without using a 3rd party Windows utility to embed the pictures in AD, so this is a nice shortcut.

Editor's Note: Read more about SharePoint 2010 from Mike Ferrara, including: How SharePoint 2010's Metadata Services Increase Usability.

4. Knowledge Mining

Although the intricacies of SharePoint 2010 KM are outside the scope of this article, there are some nice changes relating to this topic worth mentioning here. The overview tab on a user’s profile includes an “Ask Me About” web part that helps users in your firm find answers from people with the right answers. Simple but extremely effective.

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SharePoint 2010 MySites - Ask Me

You’ll also be able to expose your skills and interests for all to see. You can easily pick your skills and interests from available keywords already stored in SharePoint or create new ones that are immediately available in the keyword store. Once added, these terms are displayed on the overview tab, where you can click each one to find other users with similar traits.

5. Tags & Notes

Tags and notes are two features built into the very framework of SharePoint 2010. Microsoft is really driving home their social networking improvements with features like these.

Essentially you have the ability to tag any page with an ‘I like it’ tag that will immediately be added to your public activity feed (unless you made it private). You’ll also be able to make notes on any page that you’ll be able to see on your activity feed as well as the page itself.

This gives every page a note board that works the same way as it does on the profile pages. Users can post notes that will remain visible for the benefit of other users looking for more personalized information about that page.

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SharePoint 2010 MySites - Tags and Notes

The Growing Importance of Social in the Enterprise

SharePoint 2010 is right around the corner, and these new features will no doubt factor into your organization’s decision of how to properly implement social networking in the workplace.

Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the recent trends with social networking. Many organizations are changing their culture to support these methods simply because of the power of empowerment. Not unlike the many other improvements Microsoft has made to SharePoint, these new features are sure to please your users.