Feeds, hashtags, mentions, snaps, tweets, millennials, virals… I’m a bit over 30, and I’m starting to feel too old for it. Can’t we just stick to your old communication habits? Who needs all this crazy teenage stuff and does enterprise social network have any business value? When you look at how WWW is evolving and how even small changes in communication patterns can create a whole new category of tools – it is surprising to say the least.
Let’s start with a short story. My colleague is a proud father of a teenage girl. Once she asked him what is the purpose of e-mail subject. She didn’t know what to put there since the only reason for having the e-mail account (and using it for the first time) was sending her homework to a teacher.
The rest of her digital world and means of communication was Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. There is no need to put a subject there – have you ever thought about it?
What is Enterprise 2.0?
Wondering why I even recalled this example? I’ll get back to this in a moment.
Now, to talk about Enterprise 2.0 we need to begin with Web 2.0. To make a long story short – it is about changing the paradigm of who creates the content. Why hire people for doing it? You can give it to your end users and let them do it the way they want to. The best examples for this are Wikipedia, YouTube, Digg, Quora or Facebook.
So what is Enterprise 2.0? It is simply the implementation of Web 2.0 in the enterprise. It is a way of designing and building software to make as many of your employees as possible create new content.
Enterprise Social Software
Over the times there have emerged plenty of new types and formats of content and also various software types to handle them. Some might surprise you… let’s go through the most popular ones:
There is Wikipedia allowing you to easily create structured notes on issues or update existing ones, blogs used mainly for content marketing purposes, microblogging (Facebook or Yammer are good examples) where you put only tiny pieces of content (words/videos) without titles or structure, and some more tricky tools to mention.
Enterprise Social Network has many flavors – Yammer again is a good example. It focuses on communicating and connecting employees having similar interests or doing similar things. They can follow people, topics or groups to see only the content they might be interested in and post messages, comment, like, share with other users. Files and notes sharing as well as groups for fostered collaboration are also available. For even better productivity at work – integrating it with other platforms (i.e. CRM) and a mobile version is a must-have here.
Expertise search – let your employees update their profiles with skills, projects, certificates and you can quickly filter them that way when building teams for new projects.
Community platforms – in other words, “forums.” Everybody knows how forums work, right?
Idea management – gather and rate your employees’ ideas to improve something at work.
People recognition – it is the “Thanks for your help” app for giving feedback and promoting company values.
Achievements and gamification platforms are used to drive specific users’ behaviors with getting scored for defined actions (points are converted to badges or exchanged for real-life goods).
Enterprise Social Network is the new black
Well, if there are so many social software types why did everyone in the IT world got so excited about Enterprise Social Networks? There might be a few reasons for that:
- The first one refers to my friend’s daughter I mentioned in the introduction – young people use social networks to communicate with friends. Other tools like email are completely unnatural for them. You are probably dealing with millennials, and social networks are their natural environment
- Facebook is a great success – they hit over a billion users and not only youngsters use it. It enables knowledge sharing and collaboration experience on a scale unimaginable ever before
- Software vendors try to duplicate Facebook success in enterprises. They see business opportunities in selling you another product.
Do you need Enterprise Social Network?
Well, there is only one answer to that – yes, you do! Better communication, knowledge sharing, promoting company values, etc. If you don’t give users an ESN of your choice, they will find one for themselves. They can choose between Facebook at Work, Yammer or Slack that is free to use. So you will either give users ESN that meets your security and architecture requirements or they will be ahead of you in this game.
How to bring it to life
It is hard to make your employees use the social network in your enterprise. I mean, hey… It really is.
If you have a few percent of active users – you still have a long way to go. When you think only about pure social network without any integration with other systems – around 30% is considered a good result. Having 70% of active and genuinely engaged users makes you the master.
So, how to start with all this? Referring to my experience and some findings of Nielsen Norman Group consultants in “Social Features on Intranets” report you can try out one of the following:
- Simple microblogging. No groups, files or notes sharing, etc. Just ask users right away the question “What have you finished today?” and let them write. Well, you need to think carefully about the issue since it will either engage them with the game or make them hate you.
- Embed your network features in other tools to allow commenting and rating content. If you have Intranet, enable users to comment and like news or documents. They won’t even notice you have deployed a new platform.
- Engage with the principal users and let the underground do the rest – sometimes it’s best to give a tool to the faithful community and wait, with a little bit of support offered just in case.
You should also remember, that deploying a new Enterprise Social Network tool should only be done because of a particular business need. Find what you want to achieve and address this with ESN if suitable.
Enterprise Social Network will not replace your e-mail
There is one thing that will not happen for sure… Social network can reduce your inbox size, but will not replace your e-mail communication. Why?
- First – you need an e-mail to communicate with external users
- Second – it’s extremely hard to change people’s habits and convince them to go to Yammer or any other tool… You might end up with an ignominious defeat (remember, you work with three generations of workers and the Xs are less flexible). At Predica we managed to direct most of the internal communication to Yammer, but many people still use mail for sending files and personal messages.
Will it be full of hate and bullying?
The last thing to discuss here is that very often users are simply afraid of community hate. You have probably observed this countless times on Twitter or Facebook. But it turns out that inside the company such events are extremely rare, and enterprise communities are great in self-policing. I have even tried a little provocation in our Predica network and believe me or not – it ended victimless.
To wrap up this whole journey with social software I will only say that implementing enterprise social network in your company is not a task, but a long and uneven process. But it pays off, so go ahead and try introducing one in your business. If you need any help with that, let’s stay in touch!