Corporate communications using social networking

Positive and negative experiences of social networking within corporate organisations. My first year of working full-time at an environmental consultancy, within a much larger sister company, have involved experimenting with social networking tools within an organisation. ##Yammer We are a small(ish) environmental consultancy with offices in Brighton and as such information can be fairly easily shared between us by getting everyone together and telling everyone what is happening. We are now part of larger organisation who are in Henley and Exeter. After I started in February 2011 I was told that they used the corporate social networking tool Yammer. I gave it a go and found it technically to be a poor man's Twitter, but within the corporate firewall. As with adopting Twitter I remembered that there is not always an obvious reason to using it, but that one could emerge over time. ##A Safe Environment The obvious use for social networking is industry and technology news. You might feel that publicly alerting people to exciting new technology relevant to your company (e.g. by blogging or tweeting) is dangerous as it also informs your competitors. So, having an internal social network can encourage people to take part in a safe environment. I think that people in smaller organisations are already happy to go public as they realise they gain network effects from existing and new contacts. Larger organisations tend to feel that they have enough people already and don't need to speak externally. ##"What are you working on?" The next use is around updating people on what you are currently working on. I did this for our High Speed Two report project, something that other people within the organisation would most probably not have heard about. This is very powerful, and potentially risky to do publicly. ##Personal Networking The result of all this Yammer-ing was that when I went to another company site people knew who I was already. This included senior company members, however I realised that I had never seen them post anything themselves. Was this because it was new, stange technology? or because it challenged the usual trickle-down information flow? ##Information Islands Then I discovered that sales staff were using a different social network, one to which I didn't have access to. Perhaps the content on Yammer had been too techie and scared them, or perhaps it is another information island? Regardless of the reasons, the result is a fractured, non-sharing environment where groups keep information to themselves. It is either done on purpose, or it is through lack of communication policy. ##One System To Rule Them All A new third way, a company intranet, has now been introduced in order to heal the fracture. Technologically, it's a bit of a step back to the 90's but maybe it is easier for people to cope with and adopt. It's a concern that old tech is being adopted over new. Also, maybe it is too late to recover from the mistakes of a directionless communications policy. ##Don't Dabble What it does show is that corporate social networking is not something that should be dabbled with. This is something that is key to running an open and agile business, which itself is something that is going to be painful to convert to. Traditional pyramid company structures rely on control…knowing the right people to speak to…being in-the-know…issueing commands from above that filter down…being sure that orders will be followed. An open, agile business is about creating a structure that enables the individuals within it to operate an optimum level, and ultimately gain results that you didn't initially predict. ##Hard Slog It's a hard slog to using corporate social networking fully. If the organisation isn't open and agile in the first place, it just isn't going to work. Too many people have too much tied up in not being open. The social network won't transform the organisation it can only be a tool that an agile organisation uses to be even more agile. Myself, i'm going back to blogging and Twitter. Read about my personal opinions here, and any corporate updates on the company blog.ß

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It's All In The Game blog (c) 2005-16 by Jez Nicholson