LinkedIn and Facebook turn attention to connecting your office

Last week Facebook and LinkedIn announced their intention to focus on social enterprise. Facebook at work launched with small scale trials by invitation. It functions like Facebook, but allows for a separate login and the opportunity to keep work and personal separate.

LinkedIn, already considered the de facto professional network, is building out apps for co-worker communications. A version of InMails will let colleagues connect and an app is being designed to allow companies to share content with employees.

Using social networks for communication in the office isn’t new. Many companies have already adopted intracompany networks such as Yammer, Convo, SalesForce Chatter, Jive, Lithium and so on.

According to recent research, 38% of companies are moving to an enterprise-wide strategy, and 18% think social media is something that should be actively used within the business. Admittedly not a large number, but it is on the radar.

I suspect though, that this move by LinkedIn and Facebook, might just be the game changer. So before you dash ahead and deploy your social network internally there are a few things to consider.

Adoption is often the biggest challenge

Anyone who has ever managed an intranet will tell you that building them is hard enough, but getting people to use them is even more difficult. Sometimes impossible.

Familiarity and usability matter a great deal when creating an active employee community. And of course Facebook and LinkedIn have this in spadefulls (although personally I still find LinkedIn awkward and clumsy). Either way, we are used to the look, feel and functionality.

We are also constantly connecting to these networks. Meaning we are as likely to switch and take a peek at the enterprise side. Adoption should be a breeze.

However, just because the networks provide the housing, doesn’t mean you don’t need to plan, measure and constantly evaluate. What do you want staff to take from the network, how will you want them to connect and what will success look like? Don’t just set up and run. You need to have a clear roadmap, a use case and priorities for any activity.

Buy in and security

IT departments are usually a tad over cautious when it comes to social networks. For many employees there is no social media access through a work computer. Of course most co-workers circumvent the policy by using smart phones, but this does make acceptance by companies a bit more challenging.

Facebook is working hard to combat this already. ‘Facebook at Work’ is touted as secure, confidential and safe. But you will need more than T&Cs to convince senior management.

Getting buy-in from your leadership is going to be essential. Case studies, examples and the impact on productivity will be key elements in your persuasive toolkit. Bring them on the journey so they too can see the value in having a connected workforce. In my opinion, if you win the board over, the IT department and rest will follow.

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It is still all about the content

Even with a plan in place no network becomes a community overnight. We know that the driver behind usage is people and content.

If employees can talk to the CEO and she responds, then this enterprise network will fly! It becomes a living breathing community with every exchange. Getting buy in from your senior management is going to mean more than a nod. You need them to participate. If they do, the rest will follow.

Across the board you will need to train people. You might be surprised how you have to teach the basics of social networking to many people – the rights and wrongs about what you can and cannot share. And of course you will want to make sure everyone understands privacy ad confidentiality.

But you may also want to show them the value of connecting across the enterprise. Demonstrate how information sharing, connecting with colleagues and uncovering useful insight can help their careers too.

Information is your cornerstone for content. Whether it’s sharing the latest sandwich menu or setting down a challenge for employees to take share innovation ideas. Content is still the lifeblood of a community. So have some fun and get producing too.

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