To most people, social networking means catching up with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. Organizations, however, can take advantage of the same connectivity tools to leverage their own resources, improve internal operations, solve problems, drive innovation, and deliver better customer service.
There are a few simple ways that organizations can start to use Enterprise Social Networking (ESN). For instance, by storing professional profiles for all employees with standard information such as skills, experience and certifications, others can find the expertise they need with a simple search of these profiles. Further (especially for larger organizations) if as part of a profile, the concept of a linkages of the social network were also used, this could help me find not just the expertise, but also my personal path of people to get to that expertise.
The power of a profile
Personnel that create a profile can also add colleagues or link to others they know, similar to the way they would add friends on Facebook or colleagues on LinkedIn. This way, you can make connections with other people, which gives you more selection when trying to find resources and share information. Even if you go “old school” and pick up the phone to connect, you’re still using that social network to initially interact—and there is a huge value there.
As an example, if working for a consulting solutions firm I wanted to speak with someone with SharePoint expertise I would do a search of our professional profiles. If the search results show that I don’t have anyone in my personal network with that expertise but someone on my team is connected to three people with that skill, and one of those is ‘recommended by their colleagues as a SharePoint expert’, I can phone my team member and ask them to make an introduction for me to that expert. Within minutes I have made the connection I needed!
Don’t just connect—converse
ESN brings people together not only via linked profiles, but also to converse. A lot of knowledge management was formerly about how we could share documents; it was very document management heavy. What social networking within an enterprise does is put knowledge in people’s hands by letting them discuss matters in forums. They can tap into knowledge and see exactly what drives business outcomes—not just share files.
ESNs connect workers globally
The value in ESN lies in sharing resources, especially for companies with employees that are geographically dispersed. Now the account manager in New York can talk to the sales representative in Atlanta, and he can report his sales to the business development director in Los Angeles—all online in a way that goes beyond simply swapping emails.
I read recently that while an extremely high percentage of leaders at Fortune 500 companies know what social networking is, an extremely low number of these companies are actually using it. Clearly employees in those firms do use these technologies in their personal lives, and likely very extensively. Imagine what could be possible in their professional lives if they could leverage similar technology to connect, share and converse.