SharePoint 2010's social aspects were nice, My Sites offered a great space for users to post things of interest, update their skills and info, as well as get organizational views and information. Most clients liked these features but tended to want more from it. Luckily SharePoint 2013 offers up improved administration and user experience as well as some new features to help users share and collaborate with others in their organization.

What's New In My Sites

With SharePoint Server 2013, My Sites will continue to provide all the same features from SharePoint 2010. However, the user interface has been completely redesigned with a more modern UI to give users an inviting and intuitive experience. The biggest change to the UI is a simplified/unified navigation for your own and others' My Sites. Also, My Sites contain new Microblog and Newsfeeds features. These allow users to engage in conversations, and keep up-to-date on activities from content and people in which they are interested.

Microblog and Newsfeeds

The Newsfeed page on the improved My Site continues to provide aggregated views of activities from content and people the user is following. In addition, the feed is improved with the new microblogging functionality that enables users to do a lot more:

  • Participate in conversations by posting comments and replies.

  • Post pictures and links.

  • Use tags (starting with the # symbol) to define keywords that users can follow and search for.

  • Use mentions (starting with the @ symbol) to tag users in posts and replies.

  • Indicate agreement with comments and replies by clicking Like.

  • Follow people, documents, sites, and tags to customize their feed.

There are some nice upgrades in Central Administration as well. These allow for setting configuration on personal and social features, as well as microblogging. These include (from TechNet):

  • Create Personal Site (required for personal storage, newsfeed, and followed content) This permission enables users to create personal sites to store their documents, newsfeed, and followed content.

  • Follow People and Edit Profile This permission enables users to follow people from their My Site and to edit their personal profile.

  • Use Tags and Notes This permission enables users to use the Tags and Notes feature from SharePoint Server 2010. The Tags and Notes feature is provided primarily for upgrade purposes so that users can continue to access the tags and notes they created in the previous version of SharePoint Server. However, you might also use this permission to enable users to leave notes on documents in SharePoint Server 2013 Preview.

  • Enable microblogging e-mail notifications On the Setup My Sites page, under E-mail Notifications, selectEnable newsfeed email notifications if you want users to receive email notifications that relate to their microblogging activities.

  • Manage Following page On the User Profile service application administration page, under My Site Settings, click Manage Following. From the Manage Following page, you can configure limits for the number of people, documents, and sites that users can follow from their My Site.

Communites

Communities offer an exciting new feature in SharePoint 2013. In SharePoint Server 2010, you could add a Discussion list to sites to facilitate discussions among members of the site. While this was great, it wasn't an all out strategy to getting people involved . While SharePoint 2013 will continue to provide Discussion lists, it expands on this concept with two new site templates: Community Site and Community Portal.

Community Site Template

From TechNet: "Community Sites offer a forum experience to categorize and cultivate discussions with a broad group of people across organizations in a company. Community Sites promote open communication and information exchange by fostering discussions among users who share their expertise and use expertise of others who have knowledge in specific areas of interest.

With Community Sites, you organize discussions in categories. Visitors can view the discussions and become members if they want to contribute to those discussions. Moderators manage the community by setting rules, reviewing and addressing inappropriate posts, marking interesting content as featured discussions, and so on. Moderators can also assign gifted badges to specific members to visually indicate that the member is recognized as a specific kind of contributor in the Community Site, such as an expert or a moderator. Each Community Site contains information about member and content reputation, which members earn when they actively post in discussions, and when their content is liked, replied to, or marked as a best answer."

This opens an awesome way for organizations to engourage users to participate in discussions. The Badge system incorporated into Communities offers a great encouragement to users and opens the door for all kinds of new Community sites within the enterprise. You can easily imagine a "New Employee Community" where existing employees help answer questions for new hires and acheive Badges for their efforts. This is a great way to reward employees for contributing and an easy way for managers to see who is active in the community.

Community Portal Site Template

When you have multiple Community Sites in your enterprise, you can deploy the Community Portal. This is a search-driven page that surfaces sites that use the Community Site template. Users can visit the Community Portal to find new or popular communities and to search for communities that they might want to participate in. A nice feature of the the Community Portal is that it uses enterprise search for security trimming, and displays only sites for which a user has at least read permissions.

As you can see, SharePoint 2013 expands social computing and offers some new and exciting ways to engage your user base and facilitate sharing and participation.