If You Build It They Won’t Come – Enterprise Social Networking

Following my earlier post “Broken Social Scene – Social BPM and Social CRM” two bits of “social” news caught my eye this week. First of all this post by Tammy Erikson in the Harvard Business Review discusses the difficulties business leaders are having realizing the benefits of adopting social technologies within their organizations.

The second is the news that a number of retailers are shutting their storefronts on Facebook due to a lack of interest.

The social media stampede is on but it appears many organisations are getting trampled because of a failure to understand what social really is. So what is social?

  1. Social is about conversations, taken to a hyper level. The vast majority of social conversations are public and on a one to many level. Most organizations don’t have the critical mass to support a vibrant internal social network.
  2. Social isn’t about the applications. Social is a human trait. It’s the human need to converse and engage with one another on topics of common interest. Social Media applications merely amplify or extend the reach of these conversations. No matter how many social applications you deploy within the organization they’ll wither unless there is something of common interest to discuss.
  3. Social networks grow organically. You aren’t mandated to join Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. As an individual you make the personal decision to engage with others. This presents a problem for organisations deploying enterprise social applications or adding social to CRM or BPM suites. You can’t tell your employees to “become social”.
  4. Social engagement is peer to peer. This contrasts with the hierarchical structure within organisations which again presents problems for enterprise social or CRM and BPM applications.  How social can you become if you know your boss is monitoring you?

In common with process improvement activities successful enterprise social solutions will require cultural change and a willingness at the organization level to do things differently. Without cultural change if you build it they won’t come.

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