Networking is a popular concept. The professional sphere speaks of it in all sorts of ways: whether it’s maintaining your network or going to network at a meetup or an afterwork event; it’s all we hear about. The definition of an enterprise social network is hard to establish. And for good reason, (relational) networks have always played a crucial role in human relationships.
Social fairs, entrepreneurial networks, freemasonry, clubs, fraternities, alumni circles: all this existed long before the emergence of the Internet. Long before the emergence of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and others like Snapchat and TikTok.
Why are they popular today? Because the business engine is the same one on which these social platforms have built their success: interpersonal relationships. Putting relationships between employees back at the heart of how the company operates: that is the goal of an enterprise social network.
What is an enterprise social network?
An enterprise social network is an internal collaborative platform. By definition, it uses the same codes as a social network and aims to promote communication between all employees.
The enterprise social network (or ESN) is closed. Private. Accessible by invitation only.
All stakeholders in the company’s life can be invited:
- the company’s leaders and managers;
- employees of the company, whatever their hierarchical level and whether they are white or blue collar workers;
- depending on the chosen options: external consultants, as well as the company’s various partners: customers, suppliers, service providers, partners, subcontractors.
The objective: to allow the company to bring together, on the same platform, its entire ecosystem. That is to say all the stakeholders (internal and external) of its activity.
The ESN is intended to facilitate internal exchanges, and to work more collaboratively. In this respect, it has definite advantages:
- better sharing of resources and information;
- saving time for collaborators when searching for information on a project;
- a strengthened sense of belonging among employees, by connecting them to each other and giving them a voice.
What does an enterprise social network look like?
A collaborative platform incorporating the codes of social networks… In concrete terms, what can we find on an enterprise social network? What does this kind of platform look like?
Unsurprisingly, most of the essential elements of social networks can be found there:
- everyone has a personal profile
- everyone also has a wall (also called a news feed or newsfeed) on which they can access information provided by others, participate in ongoing discussions, or initiate a new exchange
- a system of groups also allows you to exchange by community (e.g. by project, geographical site, business team, area of interest, etc.), to share information or documents, and to interact on shared themes.
- storage space to centralize and organize shared documents
- real-time exchange functionalities via chat, video calls, …
Exchanges can be instant or delayed, and it’s easy to track who’s taking part in a discussion thread. No more endless email loops, in which people invite each other in or disappear.
Finally, the enterprise social network brings an element that is absent from personal social networks: customization. As an ESN is the company’s tool, it can be customized with its colors, its logo, create relevant communities, …
ESN and Professional Social Networks: Don’t get Confused
The wording could be confusing. A definition that makes a clear distinction between enterprise social networks and professional social networks should therefore be reviewed.
Indeed, the enterprise social network is intended for internal use only. Employee profiles are only visible to other members of the internal network, and are in no way public. It is an internal network, by invitation, which only brings together the company’s ecosystem, i.e. internal stakeholders (executives, managers and employees) and external stakeholders (customers, suppliers, service providers, partners and subcontractors).
Professional social networks, on the other hand: LinkedIn or Viadeo in particular, are certainly “professional”, but are intended for personal use.
In short, the enterprise social network allows the company to adopt the codes of social networks that today take a very important place in our daily lives. The ESN is today a valuable tool to free the inboxes and minds of your employees, and fluidify your internal communication.
– Author: Paul Maubareyt