From our last article on why social media is relevant for Internal Communicators, we understand the huge potential benefits of adopting an enterprise social networking (ESN) platform. Industry leading companies are winning with their employees on social, and it's inspiring.

We also know there are a number of challenges around using new technology at scale. So how do we move forward and bring antiquated organizations into the present? It may require some effort to get your social strategy off the ground and up the ladder, so you’ll want to be prepared.

If you read nothing else, remember to lead with your strategic goals, measure what's working and what's not, and share your success throughout the process.

Put another way, this means defining your goals for social media in your organization, choosing a platform, and leveraging the analytics and engagement data to prove your intuitions.

Defining Goals for Enterprise Social Media

What are the goals of your social media strategy? Sure we want to experience the same success and engagement other companies have reported but.. how? What’s the point of social media, and how will you know when you’re successful? How do the activities you want to promote align with your company objectives and mission?

To get to that oh-so-awesome place of knowing exactly what you want to get out of social and flawlessly implementing it, you need goals and a social platform you actually want to use yourself. But set your goals first.

Remember to set S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, timely, and realistic) for your internal social media strategy. For example:

  • Short-term goal: "Have 50% of our employees able to easily access the network and log on at least once.”
  • Long-term goal: "Have a 1.5% engagement rate in time for the company Christmas party."

These goals are just examples, but they're the kind of short-term and long-term goals you should aim to set. When first discussing an ESN project, it's often best to outline the benefits and encourage directors, managers and other stakeholders to set their own goals, reworking them into a similar format as above.

Setting strategic goals not only gives you an idea of how you'd like to improve but also keeps everyone on your team on the same page and motivated to accomplish your objectives.

Next, let's look at some of the options available to execute your social strategy.

Choosing an Enterprise Social Network

One blog post probably can’t give you all of the information you need to select a social networking platform, but we’ll cover five of the most popular choice for internal communicators.

With these we’ll share what communicators have told us they like and dislike about each platform, and some examples of companies you've heard of that are enjoying success.

Yammer (Microsoft)

Yammer is arguably the leader in the ESN space, in large part due to being part of the Microsoft ecosystem and the integration with other Microsoft products most of us use.

Yammer screenshot Enterprise Social Network for Internal Comms

The interface and functionality should feel familiar if you have used Facebook and Facebook messenger. Users can share content, like and interact with posts, and send messages to specific users, groups of users, or the entire team. Yammer is designed to work on private networks (employees use a verified company email to log in) and for this reason it also works well for employees with totally closed internet connections.

The good: Feels both social and collaborative, plays nice with the other Microsoft products you use, has desktop and mobile views, and is already established and widely adopted by enterprise companies.

The bad: Yammer somewhat relies on users self-organizing content so there is less room for overarching community management, the mobile app has a steeper learning curver, and some features available in other ESNs (like project pages) are omitted as they are available through Microsoft's SharePoint.

The analytics: Yammer provides a number of categories to dive into your analytics like an Overview page, Members (where you will find the total number of engaged and new users over a period of time), Messages, Groups (here you can find metrics for Active Groups in a line graph), Files (and how many times each file has been viewed), and Access (covering how users are accessing Yammer). There is also a Yammer App Directory where users can download and add apps to their business social network to get better insight into how it's being used.

It's kind of like: Facebook and Facebook Messenger

IC tip: In order to avoid excess noise on the common feed, create lots of internal groups to bring non-company-wide content in dedicated and focused threads.

Twitter

Yes, the massively popular social network Twitter has it's place in Internal Communications, if your organization is flexible enough to adopt it.

Twitter as an enterprise social network screenshot

Don't believe us? The four giants below who are succeeding on the channel should squash any doubt:

Make no mistake, company size isn’t an issue, and you’re likely not too big for Twitter -- these companies prove it. The organizations listed here have built communities that you can explore yourself, right on their public Twitter feeds. Despite being the least "enterprise-y" of the solutions we're looking at, Twitter is one of the easiest to explain to employees (and possibly to implement).

Intel's use of Twitter is particularly interesting -- the @gptw_intel account:

Run by the human resources department, this Intel social account takes a different approach to Twitter for internal comms. It targeting only a specific group of employees, located in Oregon and Tweets about events, ticket giveaways to local events, and promotes volunteerism within the community and organization.

The best part? Intel employees in Oregon are loving the perks of following @gptw_intel and they're showing their love on Twitter in return. How much easier would getting content for your comms be if you had your employees sharing their stories right to your enterprise social media page? Intel’s Oregon team has just that.

The good: Fast, stable, easy to use, already adopted by some percentage of your workforce (particularly millennials). Direct Message system available for instant messaging. Proven examples of success are easy to appreciate and share. Low barrier to contributing content makes it likely that people will actually use it.

The bad: Adoption requires initiative from employees, nothing is private except Direct Messages, only available for those with external internet connections.

The analytics: In the Tweet activity dashboard, Twitter users can access this tool to learn more about how Tweets are resonating. Here in real time, you can see how people engage with tweets (the number of times a user interacted with a Tweet which includes, Retweets, replies, follows, likes, link clicks, embedded media, username, profile photo clicks or a Tweet expansion), impressions (how many times your Tweet was viewed). This can also be easily viewed by clicking on Tweet in your account timeline. You can also view how many mentions your account has received in the past month, total profile visits, new followers, tweets linking to you, and more.

It’s kind of like: Well, Twitter.

IC Tip: The main challenge with Twitter is how voluntary it is, so you should start by understand what percentage of your workforce would use it in this way. You can’t guarantee push notifications getting to user so don't rely on this channel for must-see updates.

Slack

Slack was born out of an idea to kill email (nice try). It's a great tool for smaller teams (think hundreds rather than many thousands.)

Slack screenshot as an internal comms enterprise social network

If you can implement a new cloud based tool, evaluate Slack. It’s free to try and use forever for a set amount of users. Despite being the fastest growing software company in the world right now, Slack is in its infancy. They will be launching a paid enterprise plan later this year.

The good: The intuitive user experience makes your ESN as tech as anything else employees are using, third-party integrations are plenty, no silos, much transparency. Habit-forming when used consistently, new employees can see all previous correspondence to get up to speed faster.

The bad: Requires change across departments to implement fully, and it’s not for every organization. If your only goal is increasing internal social engagement, the collaborative tools (while probably beneficial to anyone who gets a chance to use them) may not be necessary/draw focus away from social functions.

The analytics: With Slack, there's a variety of integrations you can add on to measure and get analytics on your account. Leo (Officevibe Bot) is an interesting one for starters -- this integration asks employees a different question every week and posts the feedback to managers in a private channel. Leo promises to improve employee satisfaction and even encourages employees to become closer to one another with tips and suggestions. Then there's Slackalytics. You might want IT to help get this started but it's an excellent way to track how your team uses Slack by way of Google Analytics.

It’s kind of like: A social intranet and real time communications tool

Chatter (Salesforce)

Chatter is a platform developed by CRM giant Salesforce to make social collaboration easier across companies. Primary features include customizable streams, polls, topics (similar to hashtags), recommendations, and analytics.

The good: Mood-mapping, recommendations (content and contacts) for employees based on their activities, tight integration with Salesforce.

The bad: Costly as a standalone product (if you're not using Salesforce), may feel geared towards sales activities for other departments, less developed analytics/reporting (see below).

The analytics: At the moment, Chatter lacks a true analytics dashboard but does provide a way to engage employees and encourage participation across your organization. Employees can send badges to colleagues, thank them, recognize an achievement, creating a loop of positive feedback. Managers and employees can endorse other team members and recognize top contributors.

It’s kind of like: Facebook for Salesforce

IC Tip: Evaluate it if Salesforce is already being used in your organization. In addition to the implementation tips below, if you’re considering Chatter there is a great opportunity to leverage current Salesforce users as champions in getting the ESN established in your company.

Jive

Jive is a popular internal communications tool, often referred to as a social intranet. It does seem more practical primarily an intranet, but is so socially focused that you may consider it if you are also looking for an intranet provider.

Jive software screenshot enterprise social tool

Jive is very feature rich as it also can function as a fully functional intranet, with all the social features you want to also make it a winning choice for your ESN.

The good: The top-down structure allows community managers to design pages and organize information, peer-recognition and social rewards.

The bad: More expensive than Yammer. May be overkill/unnecessary if you have an intranet you like already.

The analytics: Jive provides useful insight into how employees are using the intranet. In addition to the Community Manager Reports, Jive's Engagement Analytics Dashboard provides a number of activity stats and metrics like employee reactions called Impacts or Sentiment, how well content resonated with the audience. What's especially cool is the Quests and Rewards system -- employees can participate in missions and turns employees into company ambassadors. Peer Recognition badges allow coworkers and managers to acknowledge one another's accomplishments.

It’s kind of like: A social forum

Best practices for implementing an ESN

  • Decide how transparent you should be as an organization with an established set of guidelines.
  • Re-enforce how employees are to use the network with an etiquette guide, an updated company handbook, or a shared idea of common sense (or all three).
  • Stay relevant -- social works best for non-urgent messages vs. email, which functions as the main communication channel for messages more urgent/time specific in nature.
  • Get content from employees to start, and take inventory of how many employees are active on social media.
  • Learn to deal with negative feedback/comments on your ESN (it will probably happen way less than you’re expecting and it’s not as big of a deal as you may fear)