Exploring the use and viability of corporate social networks

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More than 2.3 billion people across the globe actively use Facebook on a regular basis each month, according to Zephoria. The social network has become more than a place for people to share their opinions and photos. Now, platforms like Facebook are being leveraged by businesses as a centerpiece to their social marketing efforts. As use of social networking platforms grows, so too do their potential use cases.

Young people using social media mobile devices.

In late 2016, Facebook introduced Workplace by Facebook, a solution geared specifically toward business users. This intra company social network would, in theory, provide a more familiar interface and toolset for co-workers to maintain communication and collaborate, while also supporting a more communal feel within the company culture.

However, not all business leaders were convinced of the validity and benefits that such a corporate social network could provide. Although there are certainly advantages to adding a social component as part of a company’s employee resources, challenges can emerge as well.

In the current landscape, the use of social tools like these will only grow. In this spirit, it’s important for information systems students and professionals to have an introduction to corporate social networks, understand the hangups they cause, as well as plan strategies for their successful use.

Intra company social network: What do these platforms have to offer?

As CMSWiRE contributor Chris Wright points out, more than a few options for corporate social networks have emerged, beyond that offered by Facebook. Other enterprise-targeted intra company social networks include:

  • Yammer, which integrates with Microsoft solutions like Office 365, adding features for file sharing, people search, and collaboration.
  • Slack, which is similar to the consumer-level WhatsApp, and centers around communication capabilities through real-time chat. This platform can also integrate with certain file sharing applications for even more functionality.
  • Jive, introduced in 2001, is one of the longest-standing options for corporate social media platforms.

Overall, the purpose of these and other intra company social network solutions is to expand upon the unified communication tools employees have access to, while adding more of a social component. Many options, like Workplace by Facebook, enable users to share more than just document attachment and written messages — photos, links to blogs, videos, and more are all available, as well as the ability to comment on posts.

In some cases, a corporate social network that is within the company’s own closed network or intranet is a necessity to avoid shadow IT and other risky employee activity.

“Many enterprises have such poor collaborative and communication tools that employees tend to create their own networks within the company,” Elcom states.

In other instances, a corporate social media network can actually help enhance working relationships between co-workers, particularly when much of staff communication is siloed.

“Employees naturally tend to form groups with those they work the closest with and get on with the best. This means that interaction is taking place in small pockets, which are scattered throughout the company and may not bring much to the table in terms of real collaboration,” Elcom points out. “By implementing a strategy that will enable workers to communicate more freely with others in different departments, productivity can increase dramatically.”

Do employees actually use them? Intranet best practices

One of the biggest challenges that come with the use of corporate social networks is use itself. As Harvard Business Review contributor Charlene Li reports, one study found that 14% of businesses that do have an enterprise social network in place noted low usage among employees. Another 20% said the intra company social network is only used by some employees.

After taking a deeper look, experts like Li discovered that much of this issue revolves around leading by example. In other words, if company higher ups don’t make use of the corporate social network, employees won’t make an effort to do so either.

In addition to leading by example, there are a few other intranet best practices that can help:

  • Choose a platform with the right features. Decision-makers should consider the ways in which employees like to work and collaborate, as well as the unified communication and collaboration tools already in place. Selecting a platform that complements current workflows and existing technology capabilities will help ensure a successful deployment.
  • Encourage usage in a corporate social media policy. Information systems students will learn the value of creating explicit usage policies for technological assets. This should also extend to the company’s social media. This policy can encourage employees to take a look at posts, particularly for important company information.
  • Use it appropriately. While fun and engaging posts about a lunch out with colleagues is beneficial, administrators should also brush up on best practices for appropriate content posting. For instance, company leaders can use the social media network to make important business announcements, and send out an accompanying email to direct workers to the social post for more details. This is a beneficial way to ensure that critical information and announcements reach employees, while also motivating them to use the social network.

Workplace by Facebook: A real-life look

As information systems students bolster their knowledge around corporate social networks, it can be helpful to have a real-world use case. ComputerWorld examined the use of Workplace by Facebook one year after its launch and found:

  • More than 14,000 companies across the world use it, including giants like the Royal Bank of Scotland and Walmart.
  • Even as a relative latecomer to the corporate-focused social network market, Workplace experienced considerable growth in the first year, with room for additional growth in the future.
  • Facebook must still build its credibility in the enterprise space.

“Workplace by Facebook has nailed usability but not enterprise trust,” Craig Le Claire, Forrester principal analyst and vice president, told ComputerWorld.

Expanding awareness of social tools for information systems students

Social tools like intra company social networks will continue to play a role in enterprise communication. Students studying in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems can learn more about social media tools through the elective course, IS 415 – Social Media & Virtual Communications in Business.

To find out more, connect with an expert enrollment advisor today.

Recommended Reading:

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 Sources:

Zephoria

Workplace by Facebook

CMSWiRE

Elcom

Harvard Business Review

ComputerWorld