Friendly Business

Enterprise Social Networking Strategies
by: Jerry Liao

Prior to the online explosion, when you want to meet new people, you need to go out, join parties and gatherings. Today, all you need is to have a computer in front of you, internet connection and you’re on your way to meeting new friends.

This can be achieved via online chatting, instant messaging, forums and the most popular of them all nowadays – Social Networking. Social Networking sites are online communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others.

Join social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, and/or Multiply and more often than not, you will be swamped with new friends. You will even have the luxury to accept or reject ‘Can we be friends’ invites.

Because of its popularity, enterprises are looking at social networking a way to increase their online presence and a way to market their products. And why not, according to Forrester Research, enterprise spending on Web 2.0 technologies will surge over the next five years to reach $4.6 billion globally.

The next question is how should companies take advantage of what social networking has to offer. NewsGator Technologies, a company that helps enterprises and media companies leverage social computing solutions to deliver real business value provided some enterprise social networking strategies for all of us to consider:

1. Define acceptable use. Although the purpose of enterprise social networking is improving business performance, enjoyment is part of the calculus. How much “fun” is acceptable? Will non-work content be emphasized or discouraged? Set expectations in a few sentences and let everyone know up front.

2. Find a champion. The champion provides the push at the beginning of the project and discovers advocates who can establish momentum.

3. Select initial users. Going enterprise-wide from the gun usually doesn’t work for companies of more than a few thousand users. The ideal starting group contains plenty of workers who already share information. Consider younger workers, since millennials tend to be more open, willing to share, and familiar with social networking tools.

4. Understand users’ existing processes. Success is likely if you can make your enterprise social computing tools the easiest and most natural way to do the work that is already taking place. A discussion forum, for example, can replace a long and confusing email thread. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) technology provides a seamless way to share content without clutter, and to ensure your social network stays fresh and relevant.

5. Provide a feedback mechanism. For a social network to evolve, managers need to encourage and incorporate user feedback. When users see their good ideas adopted, they sense ownership and become power users.

6. Incentives. In the long term, an effective social computing system is its own reward. Early on, however, employees will respond quickly to public recognition from the champion, scoring mechanisms that spotlight valued contributors, and, if appropriate, monetary compensation.

7. Integrate with current online destinations. Success chances skyrocket if users can participate from the environments where they already spend their time. For example, rather than build a social networking application from scratch, simply layer social computing features like networking, communities, discussions, tagging, social bookmarking and blogging on an existing portal or intranet. [NewsGator Social Sites software, for example, transforms any Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) implementation into a full-featured enterprise social network without altering user habits.]

8. Integrate with current processes. For example, one social networking site automatically builds time-tracking reports based on the user’s activities within the network, eliminating traditional busy work.

9. Provide the right modes of participation. Although some users may dive right into a new technology, some won’t. E-mail can actually be an effective way for some workers to participate if the solution is implemented well. Mobile devices provide essential participation options, too.

10. Design for minimum effort. Every extra click or decision is a chance for the user to quit. Social computing interfaces should make actions as simple and obvious as possible. To settle on the best design, review business goals and focus on the interactions that directly support them.


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