Avoid this rookie mistake with your enterprise social network

Many companies haven’t a clue when it comes to running an enterprise social network inside their business

There is an assumption, because of the prevalence of Twitter, Facebook and the like, that all you need to do is plug one into a company’s mainframe and away you go.

I call this ‘plug and pray’.

You’d be forgiven for thinking they are the same. Internal social networks have all the same accoutrements you find on external ones, lulling us into a false sense of familiarity. Follow buttons, like buttons, activity streams, groups. Heaps of similarities.

There is one killer, and I mean absolute humdinger of a reason, why they are different though.


Everyone knows what Facebook is for. Love it or hate it, it’s purpose is baked into its very fabric. Same goes for LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and so on.

Now take your company’s internal social network. What’s it’s purpose? Is it ‘to improve collaboration’? to ‘break down silos’? To create ‘a great place to work’? No, these can’t be it’s purpose – they are desirable outcomes – not the reason you use it.

Not defining the purpose of your internal social network is the single biggest rookie mistake. How do you avoid making it?

Simple. Ask yourself Why you need it in the first place.

The next time a colleague asks you for an ‘internal Facebook for their team’. Ask them Why as well. Why do they want a social network in the first place? What are they trying to achieve?

Here’s what I call ‘The Five Whys‘ for using an enterprise social network:

1. For projects. Set up a group, community, whatever your ESN of choice offers you, for a specific project team. Use the group as a virtual meeting place. Use it as the place to ask questions, reserving email only for one to few communications. And tell people that. More, get your leaders to live by that code. When you see group email, go direct to sender and ask that next time they post the question in the social network. Hold a webjam in the group every month. Could be ask a senior leader webjam, could be a round table discussion one – it doesn’t matter. Mix it up.  Share agendas, killer documents that people always need, videos, whatever is most viral in your group.

2. For communicating. Every company has an internal communications department. How do they communicate? By email. Problem is people are swamped by emails. How do you ensure your message has the right cut-through? Well, you can’t. Why not channel the majority of your communication through your social network? Set up a generic account for ‘yourcompanyinternalcomms’ and post from that. Encourage others to follow it. Then your communications pop up in their activity feed. Yes maybe they’ll ignore, just as would ignore your email. But within the network there is one key difference = people can respond. Or like. Something! With email the most intel you can get is open rates. Communicators want to know what people think. Social networks encourage that.

3. For generating ‘themed’ discussions. What’s one of those? A ‘themed’ discussion is a particular interest / passion that a given group of people in the company have. The more specific the niche the better the outcome. Too broad and there’s too much leg room. Keep it tight, and people who are passionate about a given topic will come in droves. And it doesn’t need to be high-brow, intellectual themes.  Some of the best themed discussions can be around trivial things.

4. For campaigns. The next time a department wants to run an internal campaign, lets say you’re a car manufacturer and you want to run a safety campaign for your assembly lines, use your social network to do it. Don’t just push out messages. Use the power of social to grow interest around a topic. Create online competitions, scavenger hunts, quizzes – use gamification techniques to bring the subject to life. Make it fun, relevant, vital. Enlist support from your biggest advocates across your network, ask your champions for support.

5. For events. For your next conference use your social network as the back channel. Lets say you have 60 people in a room with 1000 people not there. They could be dotted around the globe. They would love to be there. Well they can be. In the room with you. How? Make a big call out to everyone…this is how we’re going to do this. Make the leaders commit to commentating throughout the sessions. Make the 60 people in the room commit to sharing their thoughts. You’ll find some of the best conversations in the room are happening in the network, with people in the room. Why? Because a heap of people are not comfortable taking the mic and riffing on a topic, but they are in written format. You’re catering for those guys too. As well as creating an awesome broadcast of what’s going on.  What’s more, you’ve got a record of the event in those conversations. Sweet.

It’s easy to be duped into thinking that your company’s social network is an internal Facebook. Don’t be. In large corporate environments if you don’t define Why you want to use it, the only thing you’ll see is organisational tumbleweed blowing through your network. Define the Why first.

If you’d like to read more about how to ignite your social network, grab my free ebook below…

How to ignite your enterprise social network free ebook download

Rookie Cop images used by kind permission of mycomicshop.com

About the Author Gerard

Hi there. I'm Gerard Richardson, a social business consultant with over 10 years experience working across large multi-nationals in digital communications, both internal and external facing. This site is called thenetworked.org and is my blog / scrapbook / live journal all about the power of social networks for business. Welcome aboard!

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