The challenge of getting enterprise social media right

By David High, Miituu Ltd. Director and Engage For Success “Becoming a Socially Engaged Organisation” team member

Do enterprises really want or need to be social?
Communicating socially is a natural human characteristic. Every time any of us initiate a conversation we are being social. We make statements, share information, make observations and ask questions - very often not knowing if our communications will yield a response or even where the conversation might lead. Conversations can stop, go off in different directions, provide valuable learning or be irrelevant noise – we just don’t know, that is the nature of being social.  Conversations that strike a chord with us unite us and are memorable. These conversations are valuable because they are engaging; they allow us to share experiences, build understanding, share capabilities and create personal as well as business relationships. We are all social creatures. We engage in social activities because it is valuable to us, even when we do not know where social interactions might lead.

Within organisations there are exchanges of information, knowledge sharing and customer conversations that follow similar social patterns. But, the history, position, purpose and nature of each organisation can differ widely, so it should be no surprise that organisations possess different attitudes and assign different priority levels to the importance of being social. Organisations are shaped by individual leaders who naturally carry different opinions as to whether more or less social communication in the work environment may contribute to, or detract from, advancing the organisation.

For organisations it is down to leaders to decide how much time and effort is placed on enterprise social activities, and what channels are used to harness our human social tendency in the work environment. After speech, reading and writing, social channel options include; magazines and notice boards (last 100 years), TV and radio (last 50 years), email and intranet (last 20 years) and, more recently, personal social media (last 5 years). Pretty much every organisation will already have staff that use social channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube as part of their personal social communication.  The dilemma for organisations is that social conversations via staff personal social network accounts do not necessarily or naturally align with the objective of advancing the organisations purpose and some public domain communications may even be damaging.

So it is not a question of an enterprise wanting or needing social – social already exists. The real question is whether the organisation can enhance its purpose with an enterprise social system(s) that facilitate internal communication and information exchange in a way that advances the organisation’s purpose?

When enterprise social media feels like something worth looking at, where do you go for guidance? Every organisation is after all in a unique place; they have different cultures, circumstances and forward objectives. Fortunately, some groups have already been thinking about the topic of social media with enterprises in mind. There is a pool of information emerging, which helps address questions and challenges that enterprise social media has for organisations.

The CIPD is publishing a report on 1st July, Putting social media to work, which draws lessons from seven rich case studies. This is an excellent piece of current research, which highlights 11 discrete aspects of an enterprise social media business case. This is something organisations can consider potential enterprise social projects against, and it comes with 5 guidance points on “Getting Started” and 6 further points on “Getting it Right”.  Research is substantially drawn from use case experiences where enterprise social media was used in 7 large (> 500 employees) UK organisations. It is a valuable read for any organisation considering their social media situation, and the challenges they may face.

Additionally, following the renowned work of the Engage for Success movement, “Engage For Success – Becoming a Socially Engaged Organisation” is an active workgroup comprising of 40+ senior communications and implementation professionals who are assembling Enterprise Social Media diagnostics, guides, hub networks and resources, to facilitate the accumulation of shared knowledge and experiences in implementing enterprise social methods and systems.      

For more information on CIPD research, go to
For information on David High, see and

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  • Anonymous

    "For organisations it is down to leaders to decide how much time and effort is placed on enterprise social activities, and what channels are used to harness our human social tendency in the work environment."

    I wonder if a better solution would be to listen to staff to see what is working for them? And experiment to see what tools and communication practices actually bring results?

    Often (I would say more often than not) frontline employees are forced to use clunky tools that are all about the process, but actually prevent the staff from achieving the purpose. Staff then might come up with workarounds to achieve the purpose (which often means that they have to bypass the process). Wise managers learns from these workarounds. But what usually happens is that the innovative employees are forced back into the clunky system. And this breeds disengagement and resentment.

    I would like to see leaders treating employees as human beings capable of coming up with solutions and having a say on how they do their work.