When you think of a social network, what comes to mind? Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are used by 59 percent of the world, but their business use is typically limited to marketing and networking—not fostering employee productivity or collaboration.
An enterprise social network, also known as an ESN, is an internal collaborative platform that uses many of the same features as traditional social media platforms, to encourage and promote internal communication and collaboration across your organization. ESNs let employees access and share information (individually and across teams and locations), work together on projects or contribute to shared initiatives, and strengthen the bonds that enable a healthy and inclusive workplace culture.
But how, exactly, do you implement an enterprise social network in your company? Let’s look at the key steps you’ll need to take to roll out an ESN across your organization:
- 1. Analyze and review your requirements
- 2. Evaluate partners and vendors
- 3. Integrate the ESN with your other tools
- 4. Establish governance and rules
- 5. Migrate and connect your content
- 6. Promote employee adoption
- 7. Measure KPIs and analytics
- Implement an enterprise social network in your company to streamline communication
1. Analyze and review your requirements
Before you implement an enterprise social network in your company, you need to identify its purpose and what you need from it.
Start by determining why you need an ESN and how it will benefit your team and organization. For example:
- Do you want to encourage socialization and a healthier workplace culture?
- Would an ESN benefit remote workers who might feel left out by not working in-office?
- Could an ESN improve collaboration across teams and departments?
The answers to these questions will not only help you define your “why,” but they can also help you identify what kinds of features you need to bring that “why” to life.
If you’re not 100% sure why you need an enterprise social network—or how it would benefit your team and company—conduct employee surveys and ask for feedback. Because your employees are going to be the ones using (and benefiting from) the ESN, they’re the best people to deliver insights into what the ESN needs in order for it to be effective.
Once you have your employee feedback, combine it with your own data and analysis to outline what kind of features you need in your ESN—for example, a corporate directory, a news feed, user profiles, or a seamless integration with your existing tech stack.
2. Evaluate partners and vendors
With your required feature set in mind, start searching for enterprise social network platforms that meet your needs. Make sure to look for platforms that have the ability to scale as your organization grows—and as your employees become increasingly familiar and reliant on the ESN for collaboration and communication.
Obviously, you’ll want to look for an ESN that has the features and functionality you need to successfully implement the platform at your company. But what else should you be thinking about when evaluating potential partners and vendors?
In addition to pricing—which is typically based on the number of users you need to support—look at the platform’s downsides. Software that’s too large in scope can be difficult to implement or use, whereas software with too many limitations might necessitate an expensive switch when your organization outgrows its use.
Finally, research the vendor’s customer support. Implementing an enterprise social network in your company can be complex—strong vendor support can help ensure a smooth roll-out and integration with your existing systems.
3. Integrate the ESN with your other tools
The content and data created, shared, and stored on an ESN is valuable, and can include a wide variety of sensitive and important information, from a product’s development changelogs to extensive financial records. Much of this information can be collected and stored in a centralized knowledge base or repository on the ESN that users can search to find needed documents, files, and data.
This information can then sync with other apps and tools in your ecosystem—like your customer relationship management platform (CRM) and enterprise resource planning tool (ERP)—through application programming interfaces (APIs) and other architectures (depending on the specifics of your ESN platform).
4. Establish governance and rules
Enterprise social networks are great collaboration tools, but they require certain rules and guidelines to be effective. When you initially roll out an ESN (and as its use evolves), provide employees with guidelines that outline:
- Where to post or publish content (for example, the news feed, a shared drive, a centralized knowledge base—or even specific directories or workgroups)
- What sort of language or conduct is permissible—and what’s not (for example, addressing colleagues with respect and refraining from using foul language)
- Topics and subjects users should refrain from discussing or sharing (for example, politics and religion)
- What type of content can be shared (for example, should content be limited to work-related material only, or can users share personal/family photos?)
- How to restrict sensitive information from those not authorized to access it (for example, a project that contains confidential client data)
Additionally, ESNs need to restrict or forbid the ability to publish certain types of content in accordance with national, state, and local laws (for example, copyrighted material).
Work with human resources and your legal team to draft a social media policy that applies to your company’s ESN. This should stipulate how employees use the ESN and what can and can’t be shared. Include this policy in your employee handbook and other employee resources. Require your employees to sign off on the new policy to make sure everyone understands your social media rules and guidelines.
5. Migrate and connect your content
Chances are your organization already possesses tons of useful and important content, data, and information. An ESN is a centralized hub that provides access to all of your organization’s resources. This means you should migrate all of your existing content onto it—and encourage users to regularly produce, publish, and share new content, too.
Because so many ESN components are dependent on centralized information storage and accessibility, you’ll want to make sure that it’s easy for employees to search for the information they need. In addition to a simple “search” function, implement other functionality that lets users share what they’re working on. Features like activity streams and notifications can highlight popular files and projects on your ESN’s homepage, letting users participate and contribute. You can also give employees the ability to create interest-based groups and workspaces that bring together like-minded colleagues.
6. Promote employee adoption
After you implement an enterprise social network in your company—and in the lead-up to its launch—begin promoting it to your workforce. Share the benefits and use cases with your employees to push adoption and give employees reasons to sign up and use the tool.
At the same time, provide training and walk-throughs that explain how to navigate through the ESN and use its features. Make the training documentation easily accessible in the ESN itself by uploading guides, webinars, and other resources to help your workforce familiarize itself with the ESN. Finally, work with management and IT to ensure employees have a point of contact for any issues they run into—and can report any bugs or glitches that accompany the initial roll-out.
7. Measure KPIs and analytics
It’s a complex and expensive project to successfully implement an enterprise social network in your company, so you want employees to actually use it. To that end, measure KPIs and report analytics to quantify how often employees are accessing the ESN and what they’re using it for.
This information can give you valuable insight into the platform’s most popular features. From there, you can take steps to promote other, less popular functionalities or determine if certain aspects of the ESN aren’t necessary or working properly. (For example, if your ESN provides webinar functionality but webinar usage has consistently remained low for three months, employees might be having difficulty accessing the feature or uploading recordings—or webinar functionality just might not be an important feature for your team.)
An enterprise social network is a digital tool that unifies internal communications and access to important data—but that all depends on how well you implement the ESN in your organization. Rely on employee feedback and real-world use cases to find and deploy an ESN that integrates with your existing ecosystem. Then, create rules, structure, and guidance that help your employees take advantage of the platform to streamline collaboration, share useful data, and improve your workplace culture.
Looking to set up a versatile enterprise social network? Talkspirit has all the features you need to foster communication and collaboration and deploy a powerful and secure ESN, including chat and video conferencing, a newsfeed and home portal, knowledge management and shared drives, checklists, groups, and so much more.
If you’re ready to implement an enterprise social network in your company, Talkspirit can help. Schedule a demo or sign up for your free trial today!