In my first article about enterprise social networks (ESN), I described what ESNs are and how communities are in the very heart of social computing. In this article I will expand on what enterprise social networks are used for.
As you know, sometimes a certain technology is not used because it is the brightest and shiniest thing out there. It is used in companies because it helps to achieve a desired business goal that has nothing to do with the technology.
Companies that think about “Why social?” want to figure out what they want to achieve with social. The answer to this question has to be technology-free and has to map to the business objectives of the company, measured by a specific set of metrics.
For example, a consulting company can use enterprise social to improve the quality of the proposals and estimates that are delivered to the client. Note that the goal (improving the quality of the deliverables) has nothing to do with any technology. Another example: a retail company can use social to highlight and address any issues in the supply and sales chain. In both cases, the ultimate goal is aligned to the business objectives: close more proposals or increase customer satisfaction.
I have no idea what to use ESN for. What should I do?
What happens when you have no clue about how enterprise social networks can be used in your company? Well, then you check what the majority of other companies use it for and then extrapolate for your own needs. So, let’s see how social pioneers (the early adopters) use social.
One of the most well-known studies regarding the use of enterprise social networks in businesses is an annual social business study done by Deloitte and MIT Sloan School of Management.
The latest joint study is from 2014. If we compare it to the study from 2013, we can see that enterprises have been slowly maturing their adoption of social, but still it’s in the beginning phase. However, the study shows that the main uses for social computing in the corporate world haven’t changed. Here are the most important ones:
- Get a better understanding of market shifts
This is the killer application of corporate social. The immediate nature of social information and interactions is the quickest way to add insight into the market because it allows everyone involved to add to the analysis. A tiny comment on the company ESN can be priceless if it helps to better respond to the market.
- Add visibility into operations or communications
This application of social helps to uncover assumptions and issues that are lurking beneath the surface of daily routines. The employees and another participants in the supply chain (clients and suppliers) can help by quickly moving the spotlight to the issue and thus fostering transparency.
- Better identify internal talent
In an ESN, everyone is permitted to contribute to different communities. The sole act of contributing with the social activities (posting, commenting, sharing, etc.) highlights the experts in the crowd. It can help uncover the “unsung heroes” in the most unsuspected places beyond the company organization chart.
- Improve strategy development
The daily business routines or market changes are not the only things subject to the immediate feedback of ESN. The company’s strategy planning can benefit from the directness and transparency involved in the social collaboration. The focus here is to improve the quality of the strategy discussion and decision making.
- Improve customer service
Similar to adding visibility to the operations, ESNs can also help become a brewing place of ideas that can improve customer service. Even though public social networks such as Facebook or Twitter are frequently used to improve customer service, inside the company walls there is also a lot of room to contribute useful insights.
With these five main business goals of introducing and using social computing, you should be able to get inspired and make your specific and relevant goals for your own ESN. Remember to make them technology-free and related to an overall business objective.