It’s not about being social – making the business case for an enterprise social network

Why invest in an Enterprise Social Network? (Internal communications edition) from Business Goes Social

Selling the idea of an internal social network to senior management is not always easy. Senior executives often see Yammer, Jive and other internal social tools as irrelevant, or even harmful. And the word “social” doesn’t exactly help.

If you’ve failed to convince your senior leadership of the benefits of an internal social network, or if you are planning to approach them at some point to ask their blessing and support for an internal social network, read on.

It’s about collaboration

One of the most common mistakes many, especially internal communications people, make, is to tell senior executives that an enterprise social network is a new communication channel. Who wants another communication channel? Aren’t there enough of them around?

The thing is, you are not just creating a new communication channel. You are introducing a new way of working.

A new way of working. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

This means that before you schedule a meeting with a senior executive to sell him or her the idea of an enterprise social network, you will have to sit down and think about the project from a slightly wider perspective. In fact, you will have to think about it like a business strategist. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Ask the following questions: What is the organisation trying to achieve? What are the current business challenges? (Entering a new market? Launching a new service or product? Saving costs?)

The next step is to find out whether there is a project or programme devoted to these challenges. If so, contact the project/programme manager(s) to find out whether they would be interested in using an internal social network for their internal communication (see the presentation for a list of benefits of an internal social network). If the managers resist the idea, move on to the next project or programme – don’t waste your time on people who resist the idea.

When you find a project that ticks both boxes (addresses a business challenge/opportunity and has managers that are open to a new way of working) you can finally approach the senior executives. Tip: if you use the presentation as a template for your own presentation replace the slide that says “What are your current threats or opportunities” with the potential pilot projects. This way you show the senior executives that you’ve done your homework and are ready move forward with your project right away.

These pilot projects will hopefully become the Trojan horses that will usher in a new era of collaborative working in your organisation. How great is that?

This business problem/challenge based approach doesn’t mean that you can’t sell the tool as a universal tool for solving the communication woes of the whole organisation. You should do that, too. But chances are that you get your executives’ attention if you say the magic words: I can help you solve this particular business problem. It creates urgency and momentum much better than a generic, organisation wide change management initiative.

You can be the star of the show

You as the internal communications professional should position yourself as the facilitator of this change. The pilot project teams will need someone who will help them use the internal social network. This might mean training sessions, nudging people behind the scenes to use the network in a smart way (this can be a lot of work!), posting exclusive killer content in the network to drive traffic, recruiting and training champions and facilitating information sharing between different teams.

With this approach you are moving away from the traditional internal communications approach towards internal community management.

So, are you ready to play your part in business transformation that will affect almost all organisations in one way or another?

In other words: are you ready for your moment of glory?

This post was first posted on the All Things IC blog.

– Virpi

© 2013 All Rights Reserved. Business Goes Social ®