Is your enterprise social network a bake sale channel?

Is it ok to ask a difficult question on your enterprise social network?

Or is your network full of nice posts and photos of bake sales and charity runs, group photos of smiling team members, congratulatory posts on this team or that doing a good job?

If so, I’m afraid you have a problem.

To me excessively positive posts dominating the newsfeed of a corporate social network raises a big red warning flag. These types of posts, when they are the dominating form of content, usually mean that it’s not ok to post difficult questions or draw attention to problems – which is the most useful way you can use the network! Especially initially.

Busy workers will stay away from a bake sale ESN

This leads to the social network being branded as “the bake sale channel”. And this in turn means that employees who have knowledge and problem solving skills that would benefit the organisation will never go there after the first visit. It’s not “work”. Also, if it’s excessively positive it also signals that it’s a channel for corporate propaganda. No matter how well meaning.

Is that a problem I see? Quick, brush it under the carpet!


reality vs social network newsfeed
Posting questions and sharing problems is where an enterprise social network can really shine – and if internal communications, who are often responsible for rolling out internal social networks, kickstart a network with a flurry of safe, harmless positive posts they accidentally signal that it’s not ok to use the network to solve real work problems. And believe me, as an organisation you do want to a) know about problems and b) solve them. Imagine if airplane pilots or air traffic control operated with a similar “let’s not share negative stuff” attitude? Bad things would happen. Actually, bad things have happened.

If you work in internal communications and want to make your mark, then facilitating questions and problem sharing and problem solving in an enterprise social network is one of the best things you can do. If this is not what you want to do, you need to ask yourself what your network is for? Is it a social network? Is it there to help people do their work? Is it there to help the company harvest the best ideas and solutions to ensure the survival of the business? Or is it yet another push channel for posts that go on the intranet or your newsletter? If so, what’s the point?


But they will just complain!

A common fear is that a social network will open an avenue for employees to gripe and complain. But that is not usually what happens (actually, I’ve never seen this happen). If there is a post of someone complaining about something most people kick into problem solving mode. And that surely is a good thing?

You can fix it

There are couple of pretty simple ways you can start steering your ESN towards a more useful work experience:

  • – Q&As are one
  • – Crowdsourcing sessions are another

But these need to be organised in a certain way so you can avoid a classic ESN fail of low engagement, irrelevance or not having a plan what to do when things go well. Drop me a line if you realise you’ve created a bake sale ESN but want to make your ESN a useful part of the company communication infrastructure! (Or tweet @voinonen)

If this is completely new information to you and I’ve written about a slightly more strategic approach to ESNs in my ebook Internal Social Networks The Smart Way.

PS. I’m not against of bake sale or charity event photos! And social content, genuine social content, builds trust and is a good thing. They just can’t dominate the news feed.

© 2013 All Rights Reserved. Business Goes Social ®