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What is an Enterprise Social Network?

Written by

Simpplr Marketing

Published

September 20, 2020

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A System for Communication and Connection that Drives Company Goals

Communication is the foundation of any company’s operations, no matter the size or field of business. For an enterprise-level company with many teams and a diverse organization chart spread out globally to have in their business processes a communication plan and platform is imperative. 

Without efficient communication, there can be a lack of cross-company collaboration, connection, and growth. Without adequate communication as part of a unified knowledge base, there are silos of information and islands of revenue. Without communication features in collaboration tools, such as a company intranet, employees can feel disconnected, projects get stalled, and a deficiency of clarity can exist. What is required to solve these issues? An Enterprise Social Network (ESN).

Businesses of all sizes require access to company information, a manner of dispensing it, and commentary around it that raises the value of institutional data. Enterprise Social Networking tools are now a necessity because of the pandemic and the work-from-home norms. While telecommuting was already a practice, the effects of COVID-19 created a new remote reality. The intranet of a company became the messaging and reporting highway. A circulatory system keeping lifeblood information moving.

Companies realized that in the wave of telecommuting, they had to promote more effective virtual management, greater cross-functional alignment, support its employees’ networking and encourage knowledge sharing. Not an easy task. Leaders also wanted better facilitation of shared customer intelligence and knowledge transfers while scaling their book of business. ESNs can solve these problems. There is a significant difference, however, in types of Social Networks. It is not simply adapting existing social media platforms to business tasks at hand. So, let’s define these networks, their functionality, and what they are trying to accomplish.

Social Network Defined 

Most everyone has heard of or used social networks. Social network platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, serve a purpose: sharing information to bring interested parties closer together in a public manner for social collaboration, connection, and communication.

The “Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies” defines a Social Network Site as “a networked communication platform, in which participants:

(1) have uniquely identifiable profiles that consist of user-supplied content, content provided by other users, and/or system-provided data

(2) can publicly articulate connections that can be viewed and traversed by others

(3) can consume, produce, and/or interact with streams of user-generated content provided by their connections on the site.”

The Handbook also explains that these sites “proliferate and evolve,” making what constitutes a social network site “increasingly challenging.” This evolution includes various applications incorporated into the platform, such as personal or instant messaging, videos, hashtags to bring attention to posts, and other social media tools. However, the often missed nuance of the definition is the word “social.” 

The real connection that users of social networks desire to have goes beyond the exchange of information and messaging. It is about relationships and bonds that bring about emotional responses. There is inherent equality in the expression of ideas, life events, and open discussion. Can the same be said of Enterprise Social Networks

ESN: The ‘Expanded’ Social Network? 

Sometimes Enterprise Social Networks are referred to by several names, such as Intranet, Internal Communications, Internal Comms, or ICs. Upon examination, an ESN seems to have similar attributes to social networking sites. You could even say an ESN is an “expanded” social network or social intranet. However, its purpose is to facilitate the coordination of teams, greater alignment across organizations, and support employees’ networking and communication needs in business.

For example, marketing team members can connect with others within their network to write, edit, and evaluate content. This can encourage real-time virtual collaboration on blogs, wikis, and webpages.  There are also features such as social tagging, bookmarking systems, discussion forums, and many other uses woven into ESNs, making them not only indispensable but desired.

While an ESN is essentially a form of a social network, ESNs are internal and private. It’s necessary to separate the lines between work and personal life without using personal social media accounts. Sometimes companies use tools like Facebook, iMessage, or WhatsApp for company communication, but none of those tools are built for businesses. It’s important not to blur the already confusing work-life balance.

Like other forms of social digital media, enterprise social networking has become a favored form of communication in business. Interestingly, many of the “in-person” traditional forms of transmitting information are now finding a place on ESNs. Webinars, town hall meetings, and even personal leadership-employee meetings can be hosted and transpire on an ESN platform.  

ESNs power growth came from connecting disparate workforces across vast geographic regions. Even teams in close proximity can have difficulties coordinating knowledge flow while collaborating with experts and leaders in separate parts of the organization. ESNs are not just for enterprise companies.Smaller companies also need to provide enterprise-level connectedness for their employees while they scale their business. What makes them justifiable and necessary to every business is the value they bring and the efficiency they amplify. 

The Benefits of an ESN for Internal Communications

Team Development

When an executive or team leader spends the time, energy, and attention needed, they can develop teams into incredible business forces. Even virtual teams can grow in the same manner, but they need a specific set of tools to enable them. One such tool is the Internal Com. It’s function can be utilized to improve employee engagement, even virtually. 

ESNs improve communication among employees and connects them through discussion threads, blogs, and forums. This social internal network encourages dialogue in a manner that all voices are considered equal. However, open channels of communication are not only about work news. They are also about team mission, future plans, and personal or professional news to celebrate. When managers can dissect what ESNs can do for the team, they will make their digital workplace an environment of extraordinary possibilities. 

For the individual team member, especially new employees, the social networking platform puts them in the midst of communication channels that distribute activity feeds. They can be empowered by capturing the latest status updates, project management news, and asking for review on situations that may be a problem without fear of embarrassment. This process, whether for a team or individual, begins with onboarding and a good employee education program that emphasizes the intranet’s purpose and full power when used properly. 

Instant, streamlined communications

No one likes noisy chatter. ESNs can reduce email inbox clutter by allowing public or private conversations to take place in a threaded format. They provide workspaces for teams to collaborate on projects and tasks, especially across different locations. With consistent feedback via communication channels, employees will not have to worry about “losing” an email or other messages. Company, team, and organizational news can also be prioritized and reprioritized as it changes. New details or updates about programs can be sent instantly from the C-suite.

Modern employee intranets make it easy for people to find the right team member or Subject Matter Expert (SME) and reach out to them instantly through ESNs. This improves cross-team collaboration and results in more expedient answers. Access to company-wide directories promotes open communications, allowing employees to seek anyone across the organization for questions about processes, procedures, or unclear directives. It’s essential to be cautious of creating information overload, ensuring the right content is posted on the most informative platform. Clarity makes better team members and teams.

Increased Productivity and Efficiency

Enterprise collaboration software in the form of ESNs enables teams to work together towards desired business outcomes. ESNs help make it easier for employees to facilitate conversations and reach others instantaneously. With platforms such as Simpplr, team members can share files and task lists that improve workflows. No matter the location, function, or department, teams can collaborate via real-time messaging, sharing common documents, developing improved managed processes and accomplishing business goals more efficiently.

Creating a fun environment in a workplace is also vital to foster employee morale and develop a sense of belonging. Personal interest channels and groups help employees maintain relationships with one another without constantly focusing on work. 

Simplify and Centralize Platforms 

A company with too many tools can be a burden for their employees. All your key data should be held in a centralized location as a single source of truth. ESNs create that singular workspace, allowing employees to institutionalize their knowledge, have conversations and socialize without searching through multiple systems for the right information.

While most businesses already have a video conferencing tool, an instant messaging app like Slack, and a productivity suite. The vast collection of software tools in today’s companies can be combined into an internal communication platform.  With the right pricing, it is cost effective. 

It’s important with any social software to set up guidelines and a framework for employees to know how to utilize your enterprise social network effectively. Creating standards while implementing a tool like Simpplr is critical to ensure that it’s operating to its fullest potential.

Integrations

Companies are discovering that the best ESNs offer cutting-edge tools and applications and integrate with existing business software, bringing them all together on one platform. Once again, it aids in ease of workflow, simplifying processes with tools and communication in one centralized location. With integrated tools, you can track your organization’s task management in the same place as team chats and file sharing. This type of visibility makes it easier to sync on details and improves productivity.

Some integrations are explicitly built for enriching teams, company culture, and morale. Some considerations are animated GIFs, memes, emojis, and social media integrations. Mixing them into a team or company activity feed helps make the message personalized, and engaging.

Enterprise Social Networks and Value

Enterprise Social Networks give organizations faster communication and networking capabilities that promote trusting relationships and encourage information sharing. With ease of use, they are similar to popular social networking sites. Since ESNs are accessible only to staff, team members can securely and efficiently follow and message each other in discussion threads, instant messaging, and blogs. More importantly, ESNs can help address workplace challenges because they enable large-scale knowledge participation and coordination. 

While many companies believe internal communications are essential, we have found that only 30% of organizations are prioritizing them. No matter the type of communication system you have or invest in, if it does not create cross-company collaboration, you will be unable to achieve your company’s goals. Communication should be a driving force behind your business outcomes. Without it, vital information is siloed, and relationships are stuck. What is the answer? Simpplr’s ESN.

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