If Google+ was not a public social network but your company’s intranet, would anyone in the IT department make the suggested user list?

The search giant’s recent Suggested User List for Google+ includes an array of celebrities like Paris Hilton, Ashton Kutcher as well as business people like Richard Branson. Online reaction has been somewhat negative, with critics calling the idea elitist. It’s like joining a new high school and being told in advance who all the popular people are, whether you want to associate with them or not.

Most corporate intranets lack the ability to “follow” people, though a number of them allow you to make “friends,” facilitating messages through the portal. I’ve never come across one yet that actually recommended coworkers with like-minded projects or interests, though it would be highly interesting to see it happen. Most likely you would see the same pattern that happens in public social media – the highly engaged, online power users would rise to the top, as would people (like the CEO) who may not be using the system but who carry significant influence.

But let’s put that fantasy aside for a moment. Even without a fancy intranet, there are already suggested user lists in the enterprise; they’re not just always written out. They’re the people that everyone wants a meeting with, with whom everyone does a check-in before venturing too far with a new initiative. They are the idea people, the problem solvers, the people who know how to work hard but also have fun, who can connect with people on a more personal level. Even in the largest companies, this list can be incredibly short.

IT managers aren’t always known for being extroverts, but their success will increasingly be defined not simply by their technical abilities but the way they share information, insights and inspiration – the same kind of things the most popular people do on social media.

Task of the week: Look around your company and compile your own suggested user list. What makes them worthy of inclusion? What can you learn from their approach? Then make sure you get on everyone else’s mental list, too.  

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