Enterprise social networks (ESNs) help to streamline communication and improve employee morale and production.
- ESNs are private digital networks shared by people within an organization.
- ESNs can help improve communication among staff.
- Popular ESNs include Slack and Yammer.
Social media is a powerful channel for marketing and sales, but it's also an incredible tool for people who want to stay connected with others. About 45% of people globally use social media.
Some benefits of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram include instantaneous communication, the ability to share messages with many people at once and collaboration support. Enterprise social networks allow businesses to enjoy these benefits privately and confidentially.
What is an enterprise social network?
Enterprise social networks are similar to social media networks, but they're limited to people within an organization. These networks can include tools ranging from basic chat platforms to project management spaces that let people keep track of calendars, documents and tasks.
How do enterprise social networks revolutionize communication?
Although an internal communications network is far from a new idea, ESNs are vastly different from their intranet cousins.
Mainly, ESNs mimic the look and feel of the networks we've come to use daily. In doing so, they encourage a dialogue in which all employee voices are equal to those of senior executives. ESNs level the playing field by allowing equal opportunity for every employee to be heard.
And although this may seem like an uncomfortable prospect for traditional corporations, it shouldn't. In the end, ESNs help organizations share information, collaborate and strengthen company culture.
Consider these three important benefits of adopting an ESN:
1. Streamlined communications
ESNs reduce inbox clutter by replacing time-consuming email threads with public or private discussions that are displayed concisely on the network.
2. A company knowledge archive
Enterprise social networks provide an all-access platform for important corporate documents, including process memos, training resources and relevant industry news, thus helping to keep employees on the same page.
This centralized location for information also aids in the onboarding of new employees by allowing them to become familiar with formal systems or even company culture.
3. Real-time crowdsourced content
Regardless of their level of training or experience, employees encounter new issues periodically, and they may need a quick answer to their questions. This can be especially true for departments such as customer service or sales. These employees may be on the phone with a customer, for example, and might need quick help from a co-worker.
ESNs can assist employees by allowing them to quickly crowdsource answers to questions. And they can do so from anywhere, allowing employees in different locations to get fast answers.
"If someone in one country needs a quick answer to a question about customer deployment, they simply post the question to [the network]," said Karen Lee, a representative at global business analytics software provider SAS. "Answers come back almost immediately from other locations."
According to Lee, the same is true of key documents. "Or, if an employee needs a specific document, they can post their request to [the network]," she said. Just as quickly, someone else responds with a link to that document's location."
ESNs also function as real-time supplements to employee handbooks, helping to gradually refine corporate systems and guidelines.
What are some enterprise social network options?
You can find enterprise social networks to meet a wide variety of needs. Some have free versions or free trials. Here are three options you might consider.
Clarizen is a work management platform that makes it easy for teams to collaborate. You can use it on mobile devices, which makes it ideal for companies that have field reps. It also includes project management and reporting, and you can integrate vendors for even better communication.
Clarizen doesn't make all of its pricing public. Instead, you must request a quote. This may be because there are many versions and levels of the platform, so you can customize it to meet your needs.
Biggest pro: It's extremely powerful and features lots of options.
Biggest con: It may be too complex for some companies.
Slack is like a souped-up chat room. You can create private, team and general channels. You can also dedicate channels to specific topics. For example, you could have a channel for welcoming new staff members or a channel for a specific customer service process.
Slack's free version lets you add plenty of people and use basic features. You can use the app for added functions, but only 10,000 of the most recent messages remain visible and searchable.
For access to all your communications or more features, you can pay for standard, plus or enterprise Slack services. Paid Slack services start at $6.67 per month per person.
Biggest pro: Slack is easy to use and integrates well with other processes.
Biggest con: Slack may be too simple for organizations looking for ESNs for task and project management.
Workplace by Facebook
Workplace by Facebook lets employees collaborate on a familiar platform. It leverages all the familiar aspects of Facebook, including individual and group chats and video calls. You can try the paid Advanced version for 30 days for free or sign up for one of the other versions:
You can have up to 50 groups, and each person has up to 5GB of storage. Video calls can have up to 20 people on them, and other features include mobile app access, workplace chat, collaboration tools, directory integrations and admin controls.
Advanced: $4 per person
This plan includes everything offered in the Essential package, but you get unlimited groups. You also get org charts, bot APIs, customer integrations, active directory integrations, monitoring tools and additional security. You can have up to 50 people per call, and everyone gets up to 1TB of storage.
Enterprise: $8 per person
This plan includes everything offered in the Advanced package. In addition, each person gets unlimited storage, and the company gets access to dedicated support and early access to new features.
Biggest pro: This platform is likely to be familiar to most people within your organization.
Biggest con: Workplace by Facebook might be too familiar, leading to inappropriate use of the platform. Be prepared to communicate expectations for how the system should be used.
These are just three options for ESNs you might try. There are numerous other options, so you'll likely find the exact functions you need to encourage collaboration and better communication within your organization.