Despite internal social networks' gains in popularity, few are regarded as successes. That is the finding of a new report by Information Week. The report, "Rebooting the Antisocial Network
," found that just 13 percent of IT professionals believe their internal social networks have succeeded.
The research reveals that although many companies employ social networking tools internally, most users prefer using public platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The upside is that users are using social tools, training themselves in the methods and philosophies of social sharing.
"We have tried for over four years to push social networking in the enterprise," says the senior IT director for a large technology company. "People just view it as one more place to have to look to get information."
The report cites user adoption as the biggest challenge for management. So, what can you do to make your internal network fly? Follow these guidelines:
1. Define the purpose.
What do you hope to achieve? What is the motivation for users to get involved?
It's no good buying off-the-shelf software and expecting people to use it. Having a clear purpose enables you to tailor your network and to set up metrics to gauge your success, which is crucial for wider acceptance.
2. Keep it simple.
As Gall's Law states, "A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked." Start things simple, and grow from there.
3. Make it easy to use.
People want the same simplicity they find in most online platforms. Don't, for instance, require a separate log-in to other enterprise tools. Needless complexity hinders adoption.
4. Integrate with existing systems.
Can users post updates through Microsoft Outlook, for example? Email remains the primary corporate communication tool; connecting it with your enterprise network is a must.
5. Make the benefits easy to see.
In addition to making the functionality easy to pick up, you also need to make the social adoption easy to understand. How does using your community benefit the employee?
6. Make sure there's universal buy-in.
Information Week found that once corporate network architects had moved on, activity sputtered. If it's an organization-wide effort, rather than the pet project of a particular few, it's far more likely to sustain its momentum. Integrate the commercial implications and strategic objectives of your network, and it will survive the loss of its champions.
Long-term projects need—and deserve—long-term support.
The business world has seen many seemingly great ideas fall short. Research such as that conducted by Information Week suggests that Enterprise 2.0 has a way to go before it can differentiate itself from previous failed paradigms. Perhaps these tips will help you succeed with your own internal social network.
A version of this article was originally published on Social Fresh, "Why internal social networks usually fail." Michael Brito is vice president of social business planning for Edelman Digital.