What is an Enterprise Social Network and How Can It Help My Business?

6 mins read

With the advent of social media, and the subsequent transformation of global communication as a result, it is no surprise there’s a groundswell of interest in adopting varieties of social media platforms for use by business and other organizations.

Clearly, the focus of enterprise social networking has been external. More or less, organizations and business launching a brand presence on major social media channels. These brand accounts are being used in many different ways – mostly marketing-centric. But they’re also being used for things like customer service management and other customer engagement models of interaction.

While the concept of the enterprise social network has predominately focused on external engagement, there’s now a push to adopt engagement platforms within the organization to leverage the collaboration power of a social media system for internal use.

There are specific platforms to allow an organization to quickly launch an enterprise social network platform within their own network. Tools like Slack can be a quick solution to create an entire enterprise social network platform for any business or organization.

The idea of “Facebook for your enterprise” can be intriguing – depending on how senior management views the potential of this type of software platform. On one hand, many managers would reject the idea due to the present issues with productivity.

“We can’t have people sitting around posting cat pictures and talking about weekend plans on our dime.”

After all, this is one of the governance issues many IT organizations have faced with the emergence of social media. People sitting around pinning photos on Pinterest isn’t something a CEO wants to hear.

That being said, there’s a phenomenal power in an enterprise social network strategy with the proper tools and governance in place to manage the platform.

Knowledge Capital

Companies try to hire smart people and invest in their skills. As an employee grows with experience and capability, smart organizations seek to capture and retain that knowledge. This can be done with enterprise social networking systems functioning as a knowledge base.

I call this “crowdsourced knowledge”, which is really the conduit through which an organization can tap into its “knowledge capital”.

If you consider the wide variety of subject matter-specific discussion forums on the web, think in terms of how we now solve technical problems through various community sites and forums. Very rare is the instance when we’re the very first person to ever discover a particular problem. And the internet itself has been around long enough, somewhere, someone has posted this question to a community discussion site and engaged in a conversation with other people.

This is really the point of leveraging an enterprise social network strategy as that permanent knowledge base. When your team is asking questions and coming up with answers, that conversation is a permanent record of knowledge exchange. That exchange is archived and can be retrieved with a basic keyword search.

This seems like a pretty good idea, especially considering that when a team member leaves the organization, all the knowledge walking out the door with them can’t be accessed anymore. Keeping as much of it as possible would be a pretty solid business investment.

Transparency

By having many people exposed to a collaboration via an enterprise social network platform, an organization can elicit input about problems and projects from a wider audience with different perspectives.

The “in-box silo” problem is where people communicate between each other on a one-to-one, or very narrow group basis (if you remember to CC: someone else). When discussing business problems, more eyeballs is usually a much better approach, as one hundred brains are better than two.

Additionally, when things go awry, it’s harder to “pass the buck” or play the “blame game” when there’s a lot of transparency around the discussion. For organizations that really do care about positive culture, the transparency brought by an enterprise social networking platform like Yammer can be an amazing foundation.

Engagement

Healthy organizations are better at communication and relationships. This is based on trust and a kinship which comes through dialogue.

When a business is stagnant, the suspicion and “survival of the fittest” attitude is based on selective information and restrictive communication. This is certainly a strategy designed to benefit the individual trying to be the “last man standing” to get the paycheck – but it really does nothing to help the organization solve the issues which are causing the stagnation in the first place.

A pattern of success in previous eras was to withhold communication for personal benefit. Success in our connected world of communication technology comes to those who facilitate communication and knowledge exchange. The value is in the ability to create and foster dialogue – not restrict it.

These three reasons are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg as to why an organization should deeply consider an enterprise social network strategy.

How are you using an enterprise social network within your organization?

 

Michael Hiles

CEO 10XTS, INTJ, chaotic good, PDP/11 in '79 (THAT kid), info architect, Milton Friedman, data science, semantics, epistemology, coffee snob, OG hip hop

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