The landscape of enterprise social networks has changed significantly in the last three years. Software providers have introduced more mature tools designed for enterprises to foster more collaboration between internal resources. Inspiring and facilitating this collaboration has become an intentional focus of executive level decision-makers who now ask for internal social networks by name. The vernacular around these platforms is finally becoming a part of everyday vocabulary rather than representing vague promises and “blue sky” concepts.
Traditional forms of collaboration such as brain dumps, conference calls, and whiteboard sessions aren’t as effective as the “always-on” collaboration an internal social network platform facilitates. Enterprises are embracing internal networks because they recognize the immense value of tribal knowledge among employees. Managers are always seeking better ways to leverage top talent before they leave, and can realize significant cost-savings from retaining that knowledge.
Who Leads the Tribe?
Organizations that embrace both the technology and the benefits an enterprise social platform offers will typically have a number of disparate decision-makers and stakeholders. Software providers have been able to develop solutions that meet the needs of varying business sizes—it’s not always the multi-billion dollar corporation that needs a solution for more efficient internal communication and collaboration.
Smaller organizations might have an advantage if a business owner can make executive decisions to adopt solutions that solve specific communication scenarios. Larger organizations may find it harder to identify a champion when the responsibility for identifying and implementing an enterprise-wide social network bounces between executives of different business units. Though as an internal social network is intended to do, it may also start to bridge those business units in ways other collaboration could not.
From IT to marketing, sales and HR, different business groups will have different requirements for usage and controls but the entire group can benefit from the immediate access to their entire team.
Implementing and Establishing a Network
Before implementing a social network, the business needs to be clear on what is required from the system, regardless of the business size or stakeholder. There may not be a single solution for an entire organization, and many requirement gaps may need to be addressed post-implementation.
From an implementation standpoint, it is becoming easier and easier with the prevalence of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions for organizations to build an internal network into their technology infrastructure. This has significantly lowered barriers to entry for the smallest organizations to the largest. Outside hosting also allows companies to avoid having to rely solely on IT for implementation resources; decisions are driven by business needs rather than infrastructure requirements.
When it comes to identifying business requirements, it’s wise to first consider the people who will use the network.
Typical internal network business requirements include:
Sharing and documenting expertise and learnings
Improving ramp-up time for new resources
Promoting cross-functional teamwork by using formal or informal groups
Enabling productive discussions and reviews
Providing insights into common company objectives
Enhancing teamwork through sharing professional or personal interests
Leveraging contact networks for referrals or advice
Centralizing and communicating targeted alerts and updates
Owned External Networks
External networks will follow a slightly different set of business requirements and have added considerations based on whether or not internal networks intersect with external networks. The convergence between the two needs to be very well bounded, but the golden opportunity is that marketers and engineers can set-up owned communities in which they can interact with their customers at an unprecedented level.
Typical external network business requirements include:
Shaping the brand image on an owned and measurable property
Curating a thriving user community to evangelize your services and products
Taking control over the ability to curate leads and build user profiles
Enhancing user loyalty and repeat business
Providing customer service by enabling meaningful brand interaction
Effectively leveraging internal and external subject matter experts to share knowledge and pre-emptively solve problems
The search engine impact of these organic and searchable conversations is significant. Without the ability to own and curate these keyword-rich conversations, it’s impractical to autonomously create enough fresh keyword rich content. This organic content can more cost-effectively attract and qualify prospects at the awareness and evaluation phases than any other marketing tactic. The alternative is losing prospects to un-owned or competitive social properties along with the insights into buying behavior, needs and feedback.
Social Networks and the Marketing Cloud
Today’s social networks—internal, private or external—are part of the marketing cloud and when integrated with other marketing technologies, provide exponential value outside of inherent benefits like collaboration, community management, and member profiles. A social network provides near immediate payoffs; rich insights into ROI; and short- and long-term value for the community.
If you need a starting point in identifying social network platforms for your business needs, use our interactive comparison matrix of leading social community management platforms.