"Let’s get one of those social network jobbies”
I’ve heard it a few times recently. One large corporate organisation recently told me that they were looking to implement a corporate social network across their internal network. The supplier was all lined up and then the supplier was asked, “What do you use”. They didn’t. Buying social media is not like buying SAP.
On the back of the Facebook effect, organisations have been talking about harnessing the social interactive power of their employees for around three to four years. Many organisations have spent much money implementing solutions. Just search Google. There are plenty of opinions.
• “Corporate Social Networks are a waste of money, study finds” http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/corporate_social_networks_are.php
• “Starting a corporate social network, don’t” http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/may2009/ca2009058_371160.htm
I didn’t find any good opinions. And to be honest I’m not surprised. Social networks succeed because those people who WANT to participate do so, because the social network gains a critical mass of people who interact, have common interests, create content of value and interest within their communities. There are plenty of choices out there. If you’d invested in implementing “the equivalent of” bebo, myspace, Friendster, Friendsreunited or ning, then you wouldn’t be happy because your community would be disappearing. I just don’t buy that you can mandate A corporate social network adoption.
The fact is that those of us who are fully engaged in the social media world don’t just use one network, not even two. In fact they aren’t even social networks really. There are just plenty of services out there that allow you to interact with other people. You just need to work out where the communities are.
I use twitter to share information, I use LinkedIn to maintain my work contacts, I use Facebook for friends, I’m on Yammer, Plaxo, Quora and probably several others that I’ve registered for at various times in the past. If I was Brazilian, I’d probably use Orkut rather than Facebook. If I was Chinese I’d probably have Qzone or Renren.
My point is that the social networks are here. They work. They evolve. And I think they come and go. I do not subscribe to the theory that there is ever a “best”, ever a “favourite” for all time. The proliferation of networks has then demanded the arrival of the social media dashboards, commonly illustrated by tweetdeck and hootsuite (http://blog.hudsonhorizons.com/Article/HootSuite-VS-TweetDeck-Which-is-the-better-social-media-tool.htm). These are great for providing visibility and co-ordination across the range of social tools that you use. And they are, in essence, what the corporate business needs.
My message is therefore simple. If you are thinking of implementing a “social network”, don’t. It is a wasted investment. There are plenty of options out there in the big wide web world. They will evolve faster than you can ever specify change of one service. The moment you choose one solution, there will always be something else attracting your employees energy that lies outside the corporate boundary.
However, DO invest in gaining clarity around your corporate social media strategy. How will you facilitate creation of communities? How will you share information? How will, or do you need to, you moderate content? And DO consider a corporate social media dashboard. How might you integrate content that is specific to your corporate environment, with content that is circling around Linkedin, facebook, orkut, renren, twitter, blogs and many more.
Social networks work on a viral basis. Whilst you can create a virus, you cannot enforce it to skip happily from one person to the next. Recognise the world has changed.
Other relevant reading: