Gartner predicts that Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) will become the primary collaboration channel for many businesses. Also, according to Gartner, through the year 2015, 80 percent of social business efforts will not achieve the intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on which technologies are needed.
If your company is considering implementing an ESN, here are five important tasks to finalize during the planning phase.
1: Analyze your corporate culture and landscape
Your company may not even need a full-blown ESN solution. Before you look at vendors or send out the first request for proposal (RFP), conduct an extensive environmental analysis that looks at the business culture and how employees collaborate. What is the current social ecosystem? Does the culture include a lot of face time and individual interactions, or does everyone tend to stay in their cubes and communicate via email or instant messaging? This in-depth analysis will help your team develop a better strategic road map and uncover areas where there may be resistance to change.
The key to getting stakeholders on board is by making sure you don't change their entire business world. Your ESN must get endorsements from the top down. If C-level executives do not make it a mission critical function for the entire company (including themselves) to use the ESN, it will be much harder to sell it to the masses.
2: Have a well-defined chain of command
A vibrant and successful ESN requires dedicated job roles that handle the daily tasks necessary to help the community thrive; unfortunately, many companies pass small chunks off to each business unit and never make it a formal part of someone's job description. It's critical to have a dedicated Social Networking manager to ensure a return on investment (ROI) and that established goals are met.
One benefit of an ESN is that you can monitor and analyze employee sentiments. As team members discuss ways to improve processes or make the office more efficient, someone needs to be responsible for effectively monitoring the information that flows within the ESN and then escalating the feedback to someone who can take action.
3: Develop a content strategy
It is also important to figure out pre-launch what type of content will be included in the ESN and who is responsible for putting it there. All of the money and the effort that goes into buying the perfect platform means nothing if no one uses it. A surefire way to kill your ESN before it has a chance to succeed is to have nothing for employees to do or see when they get there.
An ESN implementation means that employees must take time out of their already busy schedules to learn something new. Users who find a social network interesting will be more likely to return to it to see if it offers value. If there is no activity, employees will be less likely to get involved or be engaged.
The goal is to have an engaged network where the majority (or all) of the content is user generated. Until that happens, someone needs to be responsible and have a plan for posting enough content to keep everyone interested.
4: Create and broadcast your company's ESN policies
Before the first person logs in to the network, it is crucial to set expectations about the company's social networking activities. Social collaboration can be intimidating to employees because what they post will be seen by bosses, colleagues, HR, and direct reports. You may assume that users will keep postings relevant to business, but they won't. This is why having clearly defined expectations and policies can help you deal with situations quickly and democratically when unexpected things happen. Users need to be aware of the politics and sensitivities involved in participating in an ESN, but they also need to feel comfortable knowing what is expected.
Creating rules of engagement for social collaboration can be tricky. There is a fine line between having so many regulations that you stifle employee participation and not having enough parameters, which can quickly escalate into inter-company drama.
5: Determine how you will measure success
You might say you desire 80 percent employee participation in the ESN, but would that mean you improved the bottom line? If everyone is chattering about what they did last week or who just got married, you haven't met a business need.
You need to make sure each department establishes key performance indicators (KPIs) associated with the social network initiatives. These KPIs must be established to enable effective tracking and measurement and determine overall success. Also look for shared objectives to ensure all stakeholders are invested in the project's success. While it can be a challenge, defining the value of social networking activities and establishing true ROI are good business practices.
For more than a decade, Angela Lawson has written about Technology and Interactive Communications for companies such as TechRepublic, Download.com, CNET, KIOSK Marketplace, Autodesk, Vibrant Nation, and more. Between writing assignments Angela works as a content marketing consultant and social media strategist. When Angela isn't writing or keeping up with the latest social media and online content trends, she spends time traveling, discovering great food, and being an Autism Spectrum Disorder advocate. You can find Angela online at twitter.com/angelalawson, about.me/angelalawson, or linkedin.com/anglawson.