Why Enterprise Social Networks Require a Content Strategy Foundation


If you build it they will come, but too often they’ll just sort of awkwardly stand around.

Most companies approach enterprise social networks (ESNs) as technology deployments. They fail to understand that the new relationships created by enterprise social networks are where real value is created. With no strategies for the content that will reside, and hopefully flourish and spread, on enterprise social networks, these platforms can be akin to really bad office parties: mandatory attendance, minimal engagement.

In the first of two reports on the topic, my colleague Charlene Li looks at four ways enterprise social networks create value for organizations:

Fig. 9 Four Ways Enterprise Social Networks Drive Business Value


One of the very first advantages of ESNs is also a sticking point. “Makes business personal” can be a minefield for many organizations. Some organizations Charlene and researcher Jon Cifuentes spoke with for this report take pains to avoid any whiff of the personal on their networks.

Others find it essential. “If anything,” the report recommends, “the organization should encourage ‘personal’ postings because social networks are a representation of who you already are. If you are an unproductive, time-wasting team member, your activities (which are tied to your real identity) will be plainly visible to everyone.

A social leader from Deloitte Australia shared that about 20 percent of the company’s ESN content is personal, something the company considers, “was really important as it connects the fabric of culture for people to come together and allows people to enjoy what they’re doing.”

This underscores a critical aspect of ESNs: they’re a form of content marketing. Inward-facing, yes, but the larger the enterprise, the more essential it is to unify teams, project, individual employees and departments around a unified vision. As the report outlines, ESNs encourage knowledge sharing, enables action and insights, and can go far to empower teams and individuals.

Without a strategic groundwork in communications, content strategy, as well as training and guidelines for employees using these tools, they’re bound to fail. Training staff to use these tools and providing them with guidelines regarding what types of content and forms of expression are appropriate to these forums can result in benefits beyond even the successful deployment of an ESN. Employees who develop communications skills “in private,” that is in closed networks speaking only to colleagues, can also be vetted and groomed to “go public,” that is to contribute to their organization’s content marketing and social media initiatives in public-facing forums.

The entire report is available at no cost as Open Research under Creative Commons:

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