eBay’s guide to building a popular social network

From exploring your company’s culture to tagging correctly, here are some ways to build a great social intranet.

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One day, Ramin Mobasseri conducted a pastry test of the enterprise portal he managed at eBay.

Rather than email people, he posted on the SharePoint network that he was leaving bakery goodies on his desk, then ducked into a meeting. When he came back, everything was gone.

“They didn’t even leave one for myself,” he says.

He calls the results “disappointing, yet encouraging.” The run on the goodies demonstrated how effectively such a network can communicate—though he should have snagged a pastry before heading into the meeting.

In a talk titled “How eBay built one integrated social network on SharePoint,” Mobasseri offers tips for the running of an enterprise portal.

Mobasseri manages the team that oversees all the projects on the eBay Intranet. Ramin also delivered the SharePoint 2010 upgrade project at eBay, and he introduced enterprise social networking at the company.

Such networks increase productivity, foster employee engagement and collaboration with simple social tools, and remove information silos, he says. But it’s important to do things right.

1. Get to know your culture.

Social enterprise networks are great, but you must delve into your organization’s culture before you can put together a good one, Mobasseri says.

“If you don’t get to know the culture of your company, I’m afraid the best strategy in the world is not really going to help it.”

Mobasseri is on the IT side, but corporate communications took his staff along for a weeklong summit in a hotel. There they hashed out strategies and discussed whether employees were even reading the news. Get close to your IT team, and see what their goals are, he says.

2. Use social enterprise network to push tools-and reduce attrition.

Are your employees constantly fleeing for greener pastures? A social enterprise network can reduce the flood, Mobasseri says.

“If you see that employees are searching for jobs, enterprise social networking brings the attrition rate way down,” he says. “If it’s 20 percent, 18 percent, you’ll see that will go down.”

How? Push relevant internal job notices to user profiles. They can open up their personal “My Site” in the morning and see three jobs that match their skills. Why pull the kids out of school and move cross-country when a potential promotion is open right where they are?

3. Keep tabs on the top pages and searches at your organization.

What are the top 10 landing pages? Is human resources swamped, but nobody’s visiting legal? If so, how does this change the way you direct people?

What about searches? If certain people are among the most-searched, talk to them and see what you can learn about how they are using the network—and use them to push your messages. If a leader has a massive following, just think about what even a once-a-week post can do to spread the word on an important matter.

4. Tag.

Perhaps your people are saying, “I can’t find anything on our intranet,” Mobasseri says. You wonder, “Why is that? It’s been uploaded.”

Well, you probably haven’t tagged it correctly. If not, it won’t turn up high in searches. Don’t forget tags as a tool to create successful searches.

“Search will help you put good content together, and social will help you put a good context together,” he says.

5. Encourage people to follow key users.

At eBay, a certain Miss Sally has created an easy-to-use expense report that can be shared socially. One’s entire team can follow such a user so they are notified whenever there’s an update.

6. Define your purpose before you start.

You need to define your intranet’s purpose so you don’t get sidetracked. “What is it there for?” Mobasseri says. “What does it do? What is it supposed to do?”

7. Create an extranet version of your intranet.

There is plenty of talk these days about “bringing your own device”—that is, allowing employees to use whatever computer they can do the work on, be it PC, Mac, or iPad.

So, how about creating an external intranet so an employee sitting in Starbucks could easily log on?


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