Five Tips For Choosing And Using Enterprise Social Network Effectively.

Submitted by Dmitri Davydov on Fri, 2013-10-04 08:49.
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  1. Facebook or LinkedIn? You can split all social intranets or enterprise social networks into two large groups – 'Facebook clones' or 'LinkedIn clones'. The difference is this – Facebook clones (Yammer, Jive Software, Chatter) are used when a company needs an effective tool for internal  (and frequently less formal) communications. As you know, Facebook is the world’s most popular social network, but hardly anyone uses it for work (other than social media managers and marketers). LinkedIn takes the opposite approach – it's mostly used as a business tool (by recruiters and salespeople, for example), but you'll hardly find a LinkedIn discussion group that's nearly as popular as Facebook. The 'LinkedIns' of enterprise social networking are Bitrix24, MangoApps or TribeHR. They are built around tools that a typical business uses (CRM, Project Management, Records Management, Human Resources Information System, eLearning and Knowledge Management). Larger companies are usually best served with 'Facebook' type ESNs, while small and midsized businesses should use 'LinkedIn' type enterprise social network. 

  2. Create informal groups – Humor, OffTopic, etc. Social intranet makes communication inside your company significantly less formal. You may or may not like this, but that's how it's going to be (or you'll get a zombie enterprise social network that nobody uses). Creating informal groups accomplishes two goals – first, they act as a ‘sandbox’ for those employees who might be shy about using the company intranet. It’s these groups that will let them quickly learn the ESN basics – liking, unliking, following, creating a new post and so on. These informal groups also give employees a sense of ‘ownership’ in the company enterprise social network. The second good reason for creating these informal groups is that it creates a distinction – you use social intranet for work and collaboration, if you want to blow off steam and or take a quick break – here’s a designated area where you can do that.

  3. Mobile organization? Use GooglePlay stats to find the best intranet vendor for you. If your company relies on a mobile workforce, having full access to ESN and its features from smartphones and tablets is a must. You can use the download statistics available concerning GooglePlay Android apps to find the top 10 mobile intranets. Not surprisingly, most popular ESNs get the most mobile app downloads, however mobile engagement (defined as mobile app users divided by total ESN user base) is highest for ‘LinkedIn-type’ social intranets, especially Bitrix24 mobile intranet portal.

  4. Pilot group? Ignore conventional wisdom that says to create a pilot group that involves upper management, provides employee incentives to use ESN, etc. – but who gives this advice typically? Intranet vendors and consultants who want to sell you THEIR solution, even if it’s not a good fit for your company. They know all too well that it’s not going to be used unless forced upon them from above (hint: social doesn’t work this way, but the failure will be blamed on you and your lack of commitment or implementation strategy). Your approach should be totally different – sink or swim. Most leading intranet providers (Yammer, Jive Software, Bitrix24) will give you an unlimited user 30-day trial, meaning you can roll out your social intranet company wide and see the result more or less immediately. If you see your employees use your new ESN without any encouragement, it’s the one you want to use. If people don’t use it, hiring an expensive ‘intranet strategist’ probably won’t help. Also, ask your employees about their social intranet experience. To your surprise, you might find out that your HR or Marketing department already happily uses TribeHR or IGLOO, while you are trying to make a choice between IBM Connections and SocialText. Finally – it’s OK for your company to use more than one intranet/ESN in different departments, even if your CIO or CTO says it’s a terrible idea. After all, you probably use both Twitter and Facebook, don’t you?

  5. Don’t fall for the social fetish. Every vendor makes claims how using social intranet has positive ROI, increases your bottom line, helps you to unlock talent, retain best employees (especially Gen X), break silos and so on. The truth is really a little bit different. There are organizations or even entire industries that are naturally social (web studios or PR agencies, for example). Others aren’t and no technical solution will change it. A good social intranet increases employee collaboration, so rather than falling for marketing claptrap, consider specific collaboration scenarios and pick a vendor that supports them, rather than one that ‘breaks silos’ to ‘unlock hidden knowledge’. If you work with documents a lot, pick solution that allows real time editing by multiple employees. If you do sales, do a side-by-side comparison of ESNs that come with a CRM. If your teams do a lot of videoconferencing and need screensharing – there are solutions that do that. Same for project management, records management, idea management, HR-centric enterprise social networks or IT-centric solutions.

 ESN cheatsheet:

Best free ESNs: Yammer (limited by functions), Bitrix24 (limited by number of users).

Best ESN for 10K+ employees: JiveSoftware, Yammer, Chatter

Best ESN for sales/CRM: Chatter, Bitrix24, Podio, MangoApps

Most integrations offered: Chatter, Yammer

Best mobile ESN: Bitrix24, MangoApps

Best ESN for universities: Yammer, Wiggio

Best small business ESN: Bitrix24, MangoApps, Podio

Most HR functions offered: TribeHR, Podio, MangoApps, Bitrix24