There are certainly a lot of new social media tools out there now for enterprise social networking and collaboration, it would seem just about everyone is using the tools for social networking in general with widespread successes and failures. But why is it that we seem to have so much trouble collaborating internally? I mean, the water cooler conversations, network lunching and the old noticeboard around the office has been around for such a very long a time – why is it that when we add a social media network into the mix so many fail in this space.
Of course there are a plethora of tools out there these days for enterprise social networking and probably Yammer is among the most popular, but we really have the internal thing to overcome first. You see one of the first hurdles that really hits staff is the internal policy which is:
- Do not touch this thing – EVER! – this occurs when employees are encouraged not to ever touch social media. Policies are written, rules are made and speeches are given forth to all staff. Social media is bad, you can ruin our reputation, you can say things the company does not want put out in the public.
In many cases, employers will actually ask staff to not admit where they work on social media networks (which raises some interesting challenges on professional neworks like LinkedIn). Can you imagine going to a pub, a party or other social gathering and actually informing people that you can not tell them where you work? It may be fun if you are wearing a special black suit and tie but the reality here is that people will develop a mental block and an organisation is missing out on that vital knowledge sharing, the enthusiasm behind the employees that are around the company. You have to really take a leaf out of an organisation like IBM’s book here. They call themselves IBM’ers and they actively encourage their staff to go forth and engage. Tell everyone who you work for. But then of course, act like a professional.
- There must be clear measurable goals and a purpose to the enterprise networking activities.
This is exactly the opposite of the common approach where you have an enthusiastic leader waving their arms and claiming “we are going to collaborate more, we’re not sure about what – but we are going to share more and talk more on this new social networking thing”. This should not really be something strange – really it is what you would do with any other endeavour. Have a purpose for the networking. If its devoid of purpose, the type of content that will be contributed will, at best, contain large quantities of ‘chatter’ with not a lot of great quality content that is useful. Before long the enterprise social network will be a place where people waste time, productivity becomes affected and soon its “that thing we tried but did not really work out for us”.
- Do your user research.
You would do it for your customers, why not your employees. Ask them how they would use a Wiki, a blog or forum if they had access to one and set it up so that it meets their needs. If its done in a way that compliments their needs, there will be so much more that they will want to gain from using the tool and the network. This in turn leads to more sharing overall of great content and ideas.
- Strive for a great user experience.
Don’t you just love those networks that take 17 steps to sign up, set up a profile, include avatars and before long a user is sick to death of it before viewing it? There are plenty of these that go right down to what languages you speak in the detail of the profile. Its much better to give users that fast access to jump right in and start collaborating as soon as possible. The interfaces need to be intuitive and easy to use and in 2013 – access via mobile devices is imperative. To not include the use of tablets, smartphones and the like is to miss out on so much valuable content. One of the great things about Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is that content can be accessed and added to at such a rapid rate. Access is then easier on weekends, at night and of course for those using public transport.
- Cultural Gaps need to be addressed
These need addressing at the set up, they need to be understood, analysed and catered for in some detail. This is not about different ethnic cultures its about the culture of the organisation. If there have been previous ‘pilots’ of this nature that have died, this could have a detrimental effect on the one you are about to embark on. If there is a gap between what you believe the organisation is going to achieve with the new enterprise social network and what the organisation is capable of, or has been able to do in the past. It needs to be raised and addressed. Why is this one going to be different and what has changed or will change during this new approach that will make it successful.
So there it is., its not a comprehensive list but its certainly a list of ‘lessons learned’ from across a range of organisations. Do you have more? Feel free to add them and join the discussion.