Social Media Comes to the Enterprise

Enterprise social media can transform collaboration and work. Here’s how to make it effective in your organization.

Enterprise social media

Call it the golden age of social media. At least 1.19 billion people are on Facebook®. Some 400 million are connected by LinkedIn®. More than 320 million actively tweet. The potential impact on the enterprise can’t be overlooked.

Social Media Icons
The social media juggernaut has huge implications for how your organization interacts with customers. But it could have a similar effect on how your employees and end users interact with one another.

With that in mind, a growing number of platforms — from Microsoft® SharePoint® to Yammer® to Facebook at Work — bring social media to the enterprise. Many organizations leverage these tools to drive useful, real-time communications and collaboration among end users across departmental and geographical boundaries.

But how do you leverage enterprise social media to truly help your people leverage one another’s knowledge and skills to work together more quickly and effectively? The key, says CompuCom CTO Sam Gross, is to follow three steps:

  1. Emphasize ease of use.
  2. Relinquish traditional control paradigms.
  3. Integrate more deeply with enterprise systems and processes.

All Social Media is Personal

What employees expect from enterprise social media is influenced by their personal experience with social media. That sets the bar high for ease of use and responsiveness.

“When we use social media in our personal lives — whether to interact with friends or with a brand — the focus is on personal engagement and what’s most relevant to us,” Gross notes. “That’s what keeps us coming back for more.”

But when organizations deploy enterprise social media, they often use it to disseminate only the information and resources management deems important. “That results in an impersonal experience and a weaker sense of community,” Gross says.

Instead, treat employees as “customers” of your social media tools. Pay attention to how they want to use enterprise social media, whom they want to connect with, how they want to connect, what they want to search for and so on.

That will help you anticipate and deliver the functionality and information that’s best for them. “Enterprise social media should save time, make work easier, build community and drive engagement,” Gross explains. “It can’t do that if it’s not implemented in a relevant manner and easy to use.”

Don't Be a Social (Media) Director

To make enterprise social media work, IT often needs to give up some control. That starts with recognizing that employees should own their online identities. “Employees should be free to propagate their own digital identities on social media and technology platforms in a way that they prefer,” Gross believes. “That will work in your company’s favor, because over time they’ll naturally identify the most effective tools and processes.”

Gross recommends giving end users access to a broad range of social media tools and adapting swiftly as new tools emerge.

Do you allow integration of social media applications into enterprise applications?

“Just as companies realized higher productivity by allowing end users to bring their own devices,” he says, “you’ll get more from social media if you help employees use what works best for them.”

Integrate, Integrate, Integrate

Finally, you won’t get the most from social platforms if you offer them only as a standalone capability. Instead, integrate them into systems and processes so that social-based information sharing and collaboration become part of how people work. Many organizations are already moving in this direction: more than half allow integration of social media applications into enterprise applications.1

For example, one of the biggest potentials for enterprise social media is giving employees fast access to the knowledge and skills of their co-workers. “These tools should make it easy to dynamically bring together people with the right expertise to meet new needs,” Gross says.

To leverage enterprise social media: Emphasize ease of use, Relinquish some control, Integrate with systems and processes

If you don’t tie social media into HR and talent management systems, information about employee skills remains locked in a silo, and your most valuable asset — people — won’t be optimized. That will make enterprise social tools less relevant, and employees will start working outside approved social tools to get their jobs done.

IT can break this cycle by integrating social media platforms with enterprise systems. The business can help by making social tools a part of everyday processes. “When social media links diverse enterprise systems and data, it unleashes your people’s knowledge, insights and diverse points of view,” Gross says. “That can really transform the way your organization works.”

1 “2015 State of End-User Computing,” InformationWeek, December 2014

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