Enterprise Social Networks: Build It and They Will Come (Maybe)

Build it and they will come (maybe)

Enterprise social networks (like Yammer or Jive) are great for sharing information, having conversations and developing ideas.

I seen a number of businesses implement enterprise social networks. I know that some of them have been disappointed with the outcomes. They’ve invested in the implementation and roll out. Technically the implementations have been great. Yet people post comments like:

‘This is cool. What do we do with it?’

Without any guidance or starting points people wont know what to use the system for. So they’ll visit it a few times and if there’s nothing interesting happening they wont log on again. Management will be disappointed by the fact that no one’s using the system. Alternatively, people may start to use the system to discuss social activities, sport or jokes. This can be great fun, but management can feel the system isn’t delivering the benefits they want to see.

So if you’re thinking of implementing an enterprise social network for your organisation please stop and think. Work out what your organisation needs to achieve and whether an enterprise social network could help you achieve it.

An enterprise social network could be right for you if you want to:

  • increase information sharing between people, teams and departments
  • discuss problems and develop solutions
  • identify opportunities for new business, increased productivity or cost savings

If you decide to use an enterprise social network here are some things you should consider before you roll it out:

  • Think about how you are going to address the important issues for your company and how you are going to keep people engaged.
  • Identify some important topics the organisation should discuss, work out who should talk to who (but doesn’t), consider how you are going to flag new ideas or opportunities. Do some creative thinking about how you could get these conversations going. Get some respected, influential people to participate and help you get discussions started.
  • Think about how you can provide some guidance, structure and focus to the system, yet still leave space for people to be innovative. If there’s no guidance at the beginning people find it hard to engage, if it’s too structured people can’t be creative. How will you strike a balance?
  • Most importantly plan how to keep it interesting, relevant and up to date so that people will want to come back and participate. It’s easy to do this for a week, or a month. It’s much harder to sustain it in the long-term. Yet it’s essential if you want active, interesting discussions that deliver value to your organisation.

Companies are using enterprise social networks in very creative ways, for example providing planned conversation topics, themed events and treasure hunts. What will work for you?

Enterprise social networks have huge potential. A little thought before you start will help you be much more successful.

Image courtesy of MamaPyjama. Used under a Creative Commons License.


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