Social media credits a lot of its breakthroughs to unified communications. UC helps blur the line between our personal and professional contacts. We might use LinkedIn to keep tabs on colleagues or search for jobs; Facebook friend lists are often full of casual acquaintances, friends and family. If you spend time cultivating your networks, whether it's for personal (primarily social) or professional (primarily work or education) reasons, you probably give some thought as to how each of your relationships fits into your life.
"Social media tools have rapidly moved from being the preferred communication method of millennials to the standard by which enterprise workers and customers can quickly and freely connect," said Mark Straton, Siemens Enterprise Communications Group's senior vice president of marketing, voice and application solutions. At VoiceCon 2009, Straton said that social networks will be enhancing Siemens' capabilities; competitors such as Cisco Systems are working on similar projects [source: Weinberger]. In other words, your participation in social media technology might soon become a work requirement, if it's not already.
UC's influence on social media has also inspired more contact options. We have a greater variety of channels and networks through which we can announce our whereabouts, activities and thoughts; Twitter tweets and Facebook status updates are the social equivalent to business users' presence information [source: Ben-Zedeff]. We can initiate communication based on context, even without direct contact information. We'll approach business acquaintances through LinkedIn, for example, while a social situation is Facebook's territory. This phenomenon helps explain why the effects of communication latency are particularly prescient in social media, although Sagee Ben-Zedeff calls it social network fatigue [source: Ben-Zedeff].
A friend wants to invite you to a party, so he calls. You miss the call, so he texts and e-mails. This friend also needs to boost his portfolio for a job he's trying to get, so he requests a recommendation through LinkedIn. The day's tally: four rapid-fire pings to your smartphone from one guy. UC is perceived to be efficient because of its ease of use and potential for instant responses. This example's easy and instant, but is it more efficient? Do we really need a bigger communications buffet? And aside from cutting off high maintenance friends or shutting off your social networks, is there a better way?
Perhaps not yet. Ben-Zedeff argues that since social networks tend to be specific in scope and purpose, the development of new networks with new goals, though overwhelming and somewhat annoying, is actually justified [source: Ben-Zedeff]. The upside to social media is that you can pick and choose how people can contact you, which news feeds you read and which applications you install on your phone; it's safe to guess that's not the case when you're at the office and your paycheck depends on your availability.
Some view UC as an all-in-one tech solution, while others perceive it as pervasive. Regardless of how you feel, the communications industry claims it's here to stay. It's in the clouds, after all. And it might even be in your pocket. On the next page, you'll be able to read lots more about UC and its related technology.