In order to build the right social strategy, IT leaders must understand the technical options for social software integration. Here's what you need to know.
A social container is a type of server platform with core capabilities to build and host social applications. Their target audience can be either the general public (like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) or business organizations (like Yammer, Jive, Chatter, IBM Connections, Tibco Tibbr, Socialcast and many others).
Examples of social containers.
These social platforms manage user profiles, groups, sites, social-graph data and multiple types of interactions with content. Even though vendors offer different methods of integration with their platforms, enterprises should be aware of a few major trends.
Integration capabilities of social containers are initially influenced by major players, such as Facebook and Google. Facebook's Graph API and Open Graph approach represents one such example; the OpenSocial specification represents another. Originally introduced by Google, OpenSocial is considered to be non-proprietary because it has gained support from enterprise vendors (IBM, SAP, Jive, Atlassian, Oracle, Tibco, and SocialText, and more) and some public sites (Yahoo, Orkut, MySpace, and others). It also has an open source reference implementation, Apache Shindig.
Container capabilities fall into four logical groups that business customers are most likely to use during integration: social graph integration, activity stream/feed integration, widget and connector integrations, and security. Let's look at each.
Social Graph Integration
A social graph is a digital representation of our "relationships" on a social platform. The basis for that information is the connections users create with other people and social objects such as communities and content. That social data represents who we are -- our personal characteristics, preferences, interests and activities. It resides on every social platform site we visit.
The social graph has enormous potential for businesses to improve their insight and processes. When a company integrates social graph data with its site or application, it has the opportunity to make business processes smarter – for example, it might discover new ways to position a product or service for the user or to help users find friends who purchased from the same company.
Social graph representation can also be enriched and extended with information from other websites or applications. One way to do this is with Facebook's Open Graph protocol, which enables person-to-object in addition to person-to-person connections. Basically, embedding certain metadata tags in your Web page allows Facebook to treat them as graph objects incorporated into the Facebook experience. Support of this protocol by other social containers (like Yammer and Jive) can ease the integration with business applications since it also allows creation of custom objects and actions for any resource. For business organizations, this can increase referral traffic from other community platforms when company or product names become part of a user's graph data on a social site. For example, Person A bought product B from Company C as a result of an online purchase from a company site.
Social graph analysis based on historical data is also becoming an important way for organizations to uncover valuable facts and patterns. Since the amount of data can be quite large, some tool vendors are turning to big data technologies such as graph databases and Hadoop-based distributed processing.