How to Form an Enterprise Social Networking Plan
To introduce social to the enterprise, you’ll need a blender.
Let’s expand on that thought. For a couple decades now, the enterprise has evolved without giving much thought to social media. Over the last few years, that’s begun to change. But most enterprises are running at least a few legacy systems—platforms that are ingrained in an organization’s daily process and often expensive to replace.
In practice, the enterprise and social interaction don’t go together like peanut butter and jelly. But they’re not oil and water, either. (We wouldn’t suggest sinking thousands of dollars into making them work together if that were the case.)
What you need is a blender: something that can break down the working parts of what you have and create a smooth, delicious concoction that will intoxicate your business in only the most wonderful of ways. Like any great drink, you’ll need a detailed recipe. In business, we call that a plan.
Below is the “who, what, when, where, why and how” that will help your organization start forming an enterprise social networking plan.
1. Why do we need an ESN?
We’ve covered the ‘why’ of an ESN in great detail throughout the beginning of the year. For one, we discussed how a more social enterprise can start to break our overwhelming reliance on IT. We’ve discussed how enterprise social networking can save you money and how it can make you money.
We haven’t covered everything because, frankly, we can’t think of everything.
Your organization is special. It will have unique challenges and needs. It’s absolutely crucial to the success of your ESN to understand why you need it, from every angle you can possibly imagine. That way, you can eke out every drop of value, ensuring a great ROI on your purchase.
2. How do we build it?
The question of how to build your ESN is a complex one. We suspect only a few of our enterprise readers out there have the resources to build one of these things in-house. But even if you do, do you have the expertise? What kind of time and energy would it eat up to learn as you go?
Developing a website is one thing. Creating a social layer on top of your enterprise is a whole other. That’s why platforms like Chatter, Yammer and Jive get so much business; they’re recognizable brands in a young market who have deep experience building enterprise social networking tools.
But they’re also boxed. And many of us know that buying out-of-the-box solutions can be like playing with fire. So other enterprise organizations will enlist outside help through firms like Duo Consulting, working with us to build an entirely custom solution that addresses your goals head-on.
Whichever direction you go, make sure you marry your decision to your business goals.
3. Who will manage it?
Depending on how your enterprise works, you might be able to make the case for giving the reigns of your ESN to marketing. After all, marketing is usually the most hands on department when it comes to social media.
But we like to think of enterprise social networking as HR’s baby. Still, we know that change-makers can come from anywhere in the company. Who will manage the ESN platform once again comes down to why you decide you need one and what you want it to accomplish.
4. Where do we launch it?
Trying to roll your brand-spanking-new ESN out to the entire organization at the same time is like trying to chug a gallon of milk in one sitting. (If you don’t know what that’s like, feel free to spend some time researching on YouTube. Weak stomachs need not apply.)
It’s too difficult to manage an enterprise-wide rollout. Besides, you’ll need a test audience. And you’ll want to choose a department that understands the value of your new platform. With strong early adoption, you’ll get content to seed your community with, making it easier for other departments to jump into the mix.
So, even if you’ve chosen HR to manage your new ESN, it might make more sense for your organization to test the software within the marketing department, for example. To make the decision, you’ll need to answer the following question.
5. What are our goals?
In business (as in life), it can be tough to set goals. We’re constantly avoiding these types of commitments—but they’re absolutely necessary to the success of the actions we undertake.
Before you even start building your ESN, you should put together the goals you want it to meet for your organization. And don’t be shy about putting actual numbers on those goals. If you find out that they’re unrealistic, you can always change them.
Good businesses project, even when they don’t have all of the information. Take an educated guess and set your goals so you have something to aspire to.
6. When will it pay off?
Finally, it’s time to figure out ‘when’—when will your investment pay itself off? ESN tools can take time before they really start showing results. Time is typically something enterprise organizations have to give on some level.
Of course, you can’t drag things out forever. Using projections and goals, make estimates that show when your new ESN will return on the investment.