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FreePint BlogIs social networking behind the firewall just a pipe dream?

Monday, 26th March 2012 Please login top-right to be able to star items

By James Mullan


Abstract:

We've all seen how successful social networks like Facebook and Twitter are at improving customer engagement and an individual’s experience with a business. Can organisations use similar social networking tools to improve employee engagement and their experience of working in an organisation?


Item:

We've all seen how successful social networks like Facebook and Twitter are at improving customer engagement and an individual’s experience with a business. Can organisations use similar social networking tools to improve employee engagement and their experience of working in an organisation?

That's the question asked in a report called "Making the business case for enterprise social networks" and a related blog post called "Enterprise social networking is more than Facebook behind a firewall"

There are several good reasons why organisations are looking at how they can deploy a social network internally. One of the most obvious reasons is the rise of social networks externally. Individuals are familiar with sites like Twitter and Facebook and their ease of use, so providing an enterprise social network that does something similar should be an easy step. Unfortunately like most social media tools there are some challenges for organisations when it comes to their adoption. Another of the key drivers for organisations is the potential for enterprise social networks to encourage knowledge sharing and to capture knowledge more effectively. An enterprise social network that is built around activity streams and status updates rather than creating very complex intranet pages, on the face of it sounds great but it does require a shift in the way individuals work.

Two more drivers are that many organisations are looking for ways in which to empower their employees to engage more with the day to day activities of the organisation. Enterprise social networks certainly have a role to play here as they allow employees to respond to information posted by the organisation in an open and transparent manner. However the enterprise social networking tool has to be well supported, not just by IT but by the leadership within the organisation, and there should be an overall vision that provides a solid base for developing an internal engagement platform.

What are some of the obstacles?

Deploying and embedding an enterprise social network within an organisation certainly sounds like a great idea. Who wouldn't want to be part of an organisation that actively engages with its employees? But there are number of obstacles that might stop organisations from implementing an enterprise social network.

First are the connotations associated with selling an enterprise social network as "Facebook for the company". Doing so will only make it more difficult to sell the concept internally. Second is the sheer number of social tools now available. Social tools can be fantastic when their use is well thought out, but if organisations aren't careful they can easily end up with several enterprise social networks used by different teams or departments, for different purposes.

Another issue can be the lack of integration with other social tools and, perhaps more importantly, existing business systems. Integration in this manner is important in ensuring the success of an enterprise social network, otherwise an organisation is just creating another silo of information. Finally there is the competition from other free public social networks, like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. Individuals will almost inevitably compare their experience on an enterprise social network with that of a consumer site, with the latter more likely to win!

What does the future hold?

There definitely seems to be a significant move by organisations to look at how they can deploy an enterprise social network internally. There are certainly some challenges when doing so but, fortunately, there are number of companies in the enterprise social networking space which are vying for business. These include companies like Jive, Salesforce, Atlassian Confluence, Socialtext and newer communications and workflow platforms like Asana. On this basis it would appear that both the market and the use of enterprise social networking tools have huge potential.

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James Mullan has worked in the legal sector since 2001. He is an advocate of social media tools and has been talking about how these tools can be used by information professionals and organisations since 2005. James is a Past President of BIALL and in 2009 won the Wildy-BIALL Law Librarian of the year award for his use of social media tools. Outside of work James is a keen runner and maintains his own blog called "The Running Librarian". You can follow James on Twitter @jamesmullan6 or friend him on Facebook.

James can be reached at james.mullan@freepint.com

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