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Which Social Tool is Right for Your Business?

The data do not lie—social businesses are the wave of the future. Global revenue from enterprise social networks is predicted to grow from 3.85 billion USD to 4.55 billion USD from 2018 – 2019. The reason for this growth is simple. As Forrester found, business can earn a 6x return on investment from adopting a “popular social network” for their business.

Now, just because evolving your organisation into a more social business is lucrative (and appears inevitable), that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, there are two huge challenges you will face—and have to overcome—when you decide to undertake your transformation. They are:

  1. You will have to select the correct social tool.
  2. You will have to successfully implement that tool within your organisation.

Please note that these two challenges are not exactly equal in size and weight. As we outlined in our previous article, when you’re looking to create a more social organisation, most of the big challenges you will face are change management problems—i.e. all the “soft” topics related to communication and behaviour modelling that ensure your people actually use the social tool that you give to them. Because change management failures are so common, and so disastrous, it makes sense to focus most of your transformation efforts around getting these activities in place, and executed properly.

However, even though proper change management is critical—and often overlooked—we don’t want to completely gloss over the initial challenge you will face when you want to create a more social business: selecting the correct social tool in the first place! After all, even the best change management initiative will ultimately fail if it’s designed to drive adoption of a social tool that just doesn’t meet your organisation’s needs.To help clarify your decision, we’ve evaluated some of the most common tools for communication and collaboration—both traditional and social—on the market. These tools are:

  • Email
  • New Chat Apps
  • Enterprise Social Network

We’ve evaluated each according to three simple points:

  • Where it works
  • Where it doesn’t work
  • When it’s your best option

Let’s look at each in turn, and develop a clearer picture of which tools might best suit your social needs.

Email

Even with new options on the table, email remains the primary tool for communication and collaboration for most organisations. But should it?

  • Where it works: Email provides a few benefits. It’s good for sending one-to-one, and one-to-many messages that do not require a reply. It’s good for sharing non-collaborative files. It’s ideal for contacting people and groups outside of your company. And—maybe most valuable of all—it’s very natural for many people to use (especially older workers).
  • Where it doesn’t work: Email still works as effectively as ever in the above scenarios, but as workplaces have become more collaborative, emails’ shortcomings have come into sharp relief. Specifically, many small teams have learned that email just doesn’t work well in a project management context. The moment a conversation involves more than two persons—and requires constant quick replies—email loses its effectiveness, and new tools overshadow it.
  • When it’s your best option: Let’s be realistic—nobody is going to replace email entirely. It’s woven deeply into most company’s DNA, and it still does enough tasks well enough to justify its continued use. Instead of thinking about completely replacing email with new tools, consider the degree to which you plan to continue to use it, and focus on deciding which functions you can move off email, and onto more effective social tools.

New Chat Apps

Chat apps—like Slack, Jostle, and Rocket Chat—have come into many workplaces, and appeared to have organically begun to full this growing need for improved inter-team communication. At first, they were described as the future of all workplace communication and collaboration. But now, a few years in, we’ve developed a clearer picture of their strengths and limitations.

  • Where they work: These apps work great within small teams, and small companies, that are ready to move away from exclusively using email to communicate and collaborate. They make day-to-day digital workplace interactions much more social, shared, and searchable. They provide synchronous chatting that helps non-local colleagues work together in real-time. And they tend to be adopted in a “bottom up” manner, with individuals and teams bringing them in on their own, removing implementation and adoption headaches.
  • Where they don’t work: A few big issues have emerged with these apps. Their emphasis on real-time chat makes longer, deeper exchanges challenging. Important information can get buried in chat logs. And they just don’t work on a larger scale. In larger teams and organisations there’s just too much going on, and silos naturally form that make these apps much messier and less effective.
  • When they’re your best option: These apps work best within small teams who are working closely on a limited number of projects. (Preferably just one.) They can even work well for individual teams within a larger organisation who do not need to interface with other groups. But when a company grows bigger, or a team’s work extends beyond a few core members, these chat apps fail to work as effectively.

Enterprise Social Network

An Enterprise Social Network (ESN) combines elements of a personal social network—including a news feed, groups, and chat—with enterprise-ready features—such as document management and app integration. An ESN offers a simple, flexible, cost-effective solution for companies looking to increase their internal communication and collaboration. Because an ESN looks and feels like a social media platform, employees tend to find them easy to adopt, contribute to, and engage with.

  • Where it works: An ESN works best in an organisation that wants to maintain connected employees and a cohesive company culture as it grows. They provide a single, intuitive digital social space where everyone in the organisation can connect for professional and personal interactions. They provide a single, searchable home base for company knowledge and conversations. And they integrate existing communication and collaboration tools, preventing them from creating silos as projects and groups proliferate without losing the functionality and benefits those tools produce.
  • Where it doesn’t work: An ESN is an overkill for smaller teams and companies that can keep connected faster and easier with more agile tools. It is also an inappropriate choice for organisations that cannot devote the resources required to integrate and maintain it. As an enterprise-wide deployment, an ESN requires greater technical and cultural change management activities than simply downloading and disseminating a chat app. And because anyone can contribute or engage with content on an ESN, any company that adopts one must be able to dedicate resources to create, monitor, and enforce appropriate usage policies.
  • When it’s your best option: An ESN becomes a viable option once a company has outgrown simpler tools (like only using email or chat apps) and has expanded to encompass multiple projects, departments, and locations. At this point, most companies choose between an intranet and an ESN. Between those two choices, an ESN offers the better option for enterprises seeking the simpler, more intuitive, and more cost-effective social tool.

What Social Tool is Right for Your organisation?

At this point, you’ve hopefully picked up on one simple fact: there is no single social tool that is perfect for everyone, at every time, all on its own. Instead, the best social tool for your company will evolve over time as your company changes. What’s more, because there is no single perfect social tool, and because each social tool offers its own unique set of functions and functional gaps, more often than not top-tier social companies combine more than one social tool at a time.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth discussion of which social tool—or combination of social tools—would work best for your company, contact talkspirit today and we’ll discuss your unique situation.

Craig Staufenberg

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