By adaptive - March 19th, 2014
Internal social media may be where it’s at in 2014, but do you know how to harness it for your business?
In our first part of this series focusing on the Enterprise Social Network (ESN), we looked at what it was, how it worked and what it could potentially do for the organisation. In this, the second part, we examine how to take control of the network and which tools are best for the job.
“Internal social media can allow a company to define an internal culture and bond your staff in a previously unprecedented way,” says Benoit Thorp, Social Media Strategist at Cafe2U. “As the world’s biggest mobile coffee franchise we need to communicate across a network with multiple offices and sites and the ESN allows for the exchange of time-sensitive information and is therefore cost-effective and ensures swift communication.”
According to Thorp the benefits of a well-designed ESN are:
- The creation of a culture and internal camaraderie.
- Saves time and improves efficiency.
- Competitiveness and recognition.
- Retention of existing stakeholders and engagement.
That paints a pretty picture indeed, but many organisations have spent significant funds on elaborate ESNs only for them to echo with the sound of one man typing. There is one word that sets the benchmark for success - engagement.
Pulling it together
Jonny Gifford, a Research Advisor from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) believes that the first step is to allow it to evolve with a degree of formal support and a bottom-up approach.
“It needs leaders to give light-touch encouragement to use social media in business useful ways, but in many organisations – and this will depend on the culture – there’s a risk of senior leaders getting too heavily involved in social network conversations, and this may be seen as clamping down,” he says. “Obviously that will stifle the sort of interaction you want to encourage.”
A recent survey undertaken by CIPD opened up some interesting statistics around this issue:
- Many employees are not convinced of the value of social media or its relevance to their role with only 6% of non-users seeing the benefits.
- Organisations with relaxed social media policies saw greater benefits with 56% seeing a lot of benefit to the organisation.
- 1 in 4 said it helped them become more influential with 23% saying it gave them a voice.
- As the workforce gets younger adoption will rise across the business.
Michaela Clement-Hayes, Content Manager at FusePump adds: “As Generation Y makes up more of the workforce, the need to engage with them at their level is essential. They grew up with the Internet and they expect content to be interactive and if it is on social, they can relate to it and even join in the conversations.”
Structuring the ESN with features such as an information portal or employee profiles will allow for staff to be more proactive in using the network to plan meetings, research work practices and stay on top of events. An instant messaging service is a very useful tool as employees can then fire off a quick query or response instead of waiting for their emails to be uncovered in overflowing inboxes.
FusePump successfully implemented Skype as a solution instead of email for less important questions and found that people responded more rapidly than to an email and, if colleagues were working from home, they could remain in touch in real time. They have also created an internal Facebook group that encourages the sharing of internal news and allows for a more casual environment than formal updates and announcements. It has evolved into a space where people share and engage, staying up to date on corporate events and activities.
Tools of the trade
Dani Booth, Search Manager at Jelf Small Business, suggests that the business use platforms that are already in use by their employees, (Like FusePump showed in their case study above) as it is an environment that they will feel comfortable using and will reduce any training or transition periods.
Thorp recommends both Google+ and Facebook – Café2Uuses these platforms to collaborate, encourage teamwork and recognise achievements.
“One of the main considerations is to make the networks as natural as possible so that they are not too much of an effort, or too far removed from day-to-day existence. This will increase retention and success rate,” he says. “It allows internal staff to feel they are a part of something bigger, not just an anonymous cog in the machine and gives us a chance to motivate and inspire.”
Bishop’s Move has created their own bespoke internal web portal alongside Microsoft Messenger, but is now migrating to Google+ where they can create private Hangouts, manage their video conferencing and share Google documents easily.
“We use internal social media for quick communications to boost the business and it has brought a human element to the company as well,” says Louise Dunckley, Online Marketing Manager at Bishop’s Move. “By moving to Google+ all our staff will be working from Gmail and simple things, such as sharing Google Documents, will become a part of the staff’s daily workflow and project management and this will help to drive productivity.”
That said, of course, it may well be that your organisation can’t use those networks as they don’t have all the features needed for communication within the existing corporate framework. Fortunately there are plenty of tools for this particular trade.
Six of the best include:
- Jive is optimised for mobile and enterprise with rich features and clever subsets.
- IBM Connections was voted as number one in worldwide market share for enterprise social software by the IDC for a good reason.
- Chatter comes from the reputable source of Salesforce and focuses heavily on collaboration and information sharing.
- Convo has real time sharing and collaboration facilities in a sleek and easily understood interface.
- Yammer is hugely popular across the globe for a reason and has been used by some of the biggest names in business for a while now.
- Tibbr is fast, efficient and designed to feel like any social network ever and comes highly recommended.
Ultimately each corporations needs to assess what they want to achieve with their ESN, and look for a toolset that will enable them to realise their ambitions. What is clear is that social media platforms offer a wealth of opportunities that businesses are only just realising, as tools to help them operate efficient 21st Century businesses.
In the third part of the series we will be asking businesses with successful ESNs in place to highlight the pitfalls you need to avoid when implementing a sound internal social media platform.
June 2014, New York
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