Internal Social Networks – Social Media with Training Wheels

This post was written by John White on Wed, 06 Jul 2011 05:08:21 +0000
Posted Under: social media

Companies do themselves and their employees a favor by building internal social networks. Learning what is and is not kosher in house is better than learning it in the wide world.

Training wheels for social mediaDavid Stockman.

Remember him? He was Ronald Reagan’s budget director, and Atlantic Monthly interviewed him in 1981. He let a cat or two out of the bag, and after the interview ran, RWR had to “take him to the woodshed.”

Could Yammer have prevented that? It might have helped.

Keep it in house

The New York Times ran an article last week on in-house social networks. They cite Yammer – think Twitter, only internal – and an offering from Salesforce.com called Chatter.

I’ve used Yammer with one enterprise client. It elicited a din of exasperation among employees reluctant to have one more place to fish for information besides e-mail, the employee portal, the corporate content management system and several SharePoint installations.

But I saw how employees used Yammer. Most of them were already on Facebook and Twitter, but they knew damned well they ought not to post about business out there, lest it earn them a trip to the woodshed.

Quick subroutine

The more litigious the company – whether actively or reactively – the stronger the culture of carefulness in the executive suite, and the more reluctant the employees are to do what social media was invented for: try something. See David Meerman Scott’s interview of Vivienne Storey in “Is social media worth the risk? A lawyer’s perspective.”

Return to main thread

Yammer let these people post safely about their work, and anybody who was likely to be tempted by social media now had an outlet:

My Lua script keeps dying. Can somebody take a look at it and help me fix the code?

New device from [Huge Telecom Manufacturer] uses our DSP. No formal announcement, so mum’s the word, but good work, team!

Big trench between buildings 2 and 4. Backhoe operator told me they’re laying new fiber.

People want to share these things. Their spouses and kids don’t care, the co-workers right around them already know, they can’t really tell their friends, and they just want to put it out there.

Internal social networks let companies make sure that “out there” is still “in here.”

Take off the training wheels

Once these employees understand the rules – explicit and tacit – about what they can share internally, they begin to realize what they can share externally as well. They can better represent the company on the likes of Quora, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter because they’ve had some time with the training wheels and now have a feeling for what’s acceptable for the outside world.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Dawn Endico

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