When talking with organizations about social tools and logical social flows for information from ideas all the way to formal outcomes (white papers, process docs, product enhancement requirement documents, etc.) there have always been stated steps. Some of these steps have different incarnations and labels, depending on how things are done conventionally. But, there is a usual natural progression of how these flow that is rather common and universal across organization types (formal or not).
To these progression points there are classes/types of tools or services that map well to these, but very rarely is it one tool/service set crosses these, but whether it is all tools/services under one umbrella application or distinctly different instances, they really should be linked and integrated as seamlessly as possible.
The steps in the social progression are as follow:
The first step or home base, is more of a state for beginning, is the the personal space and repository. Sadly, this is the ugly step child that is very often missed in many tools/service offerings. The place were a person has a view of their resources, which is mapped in their context and needed representations to make sense with the least effort. This is the view with things they need to see surface (from their perspective and from others) and from where they jump to interacting with information, objects, tasks, and others.
Sparks (Ideas Shared)
The first step often comes from asking questions simply and easily and quick easy responses, or sharing quick notes and ideas that get feedback and interest. Many times this is done efficiently in micro sharing services like similar to Twitter but with a grasp of needs organizations have (Socialtext Signals or Socialcast are solid options to consider). But, other options, including blogs and discussion forums have the capability of doing this as well.
With sparks of ideas they need to have the ability to be found so to be responded to, aggregated, or even shared to ensure the right people see them and can interact. There is a wide breadth of types of things that flow through micro sharing services, but many will resonate, inform, or inspire others. But, quite often they get solid conversations flowing across a broad cross section of people and locations.
Campfire (Gathering of Others with Interest)
From the spark of inspiration many others with interest or affinity gather to discuss and the spark turns into a campfire. Stories are told and fuel is added to the fire. Honing of the ideas and gather inspiration, information, and content from broad sources and view is then curated and honed to some degree.
The tools needed for the campfire stage must allow from much broader conversation than the limited spark stage. Limiting the room around the campfire to those with strong interest and affinity helps keep the focus, but also these people will likely have the deepest reserves of fodder for the conversation and a wide variety of perspectives and resources they can tap ready at hand. Longer conversation and curating all that is gathers are the prime focus. Curation through tagging is often incredibly helpful (being able to tag so to aggregate and curate ideas from the sparks stage is highly important).
Bonfire (Broader Interest Gathering)
Once the ideas have been fleshed out and framed to some degree and curated to control scope the discussion turns into a bonfire. Bonfires, while much larger still need to be controlled and maintained or they get out of control and things get dangerous. At this stage broad viewing for healthy feedback and discussion, including highlighting things that have been missed, what works well, what doesn't work well, etc. are the key focus. This is the time to get understanding and direction that hones and shapes everything that is possible. It is also used to add to what has been gathered and curated in the campfire stage so to iterate on it.
Torch (Honing for Broad Use & Replication)
Lastly, is the torch stage. This is easy to handle, easy to replicate, and is safe. This requires Real Collaboration to work through the conflicting ideas and negotiate as well as intelligently work toward one final output. These final outputs can be white papers, new processes, new guidelines, new products, etc. But, the point is there is one (just like artists collaborating on a statue there is only one statue, not many and all through differences have been worked through to one salient solution).