[Ed. Note: This is a crosspost from my new blog: justinong1.com! As Catapult works to migrate their blogs onto a new platform, I thought I’d take a chance on using SquareSpace. So far the experience has been pretty fantastic with lots of great formatting options. We will see how things go in the future, but expect plenty of content on that site.]
I really love seeing others present on Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) these days for a couple of reasons. One is obviously because I really enjoy learning from other people’s perspectives and to see how other organizations have used things enterprise social platforms such as Yammer and Chatter successfully. The other reason is that I believe we are finally starting to emerge out of the "Wild Wild West" days of Enterprise 2.0 (at least within the Microsoft/Yammer space) and are starting to come to some consensus as to what this whole thing is about.
One of the first lessons we’ve learned is one we should have seen coming:
Content is (still) king.
When we first started to depart a little from the SharePoint/Online Collaboration Portal realm and into this brave new world we call Enterprise Social, we weren’t sure where it was going to take us, but as it turns out all of the same concepts from the old world still applied. It was like we were returning home again after a 4-year vacation to Miami.
Listen, we can go on all day about whether Yammer is better than Chatter or SharePoint with Newsgator but the reality is that most of these solutions are pretty good, and it won’t matter either way if the stuff that’s on there isn’t relevant or interesting.
One of the things that Naomi said that I really appreciated was that describing Yammer as "Facebook for the Enterprise" is one of the worst things you can do. (I actually think it’s one of the best things AND the worst things.)
However with that paradigm includes all of the other undesirables: oversharing, long rants, discussions about topics people are tired of hearing of. In fact, most people may not even understand the idea that you can create a social feed where most, if not all, of the content is interesting.
One of the biggest mistakes people used to make with SharePoint and continue to make with Yammer is the idea that simply enabling it for the users is the end of the process.
"If you build it, they will come."
— No one who has ever had a successful ESN launch
Yammer, like any other enterprise application, is a tool. But unlike other applications such as Lync, Exchange, etc. it’s not enough to teach users how to use it, you have to teach them to correctly identify and solve their own problems with it.
One of the ways Naomi stressed that you can qualitatively measure your ESN’s success is by first determining the use cases. What are the business processes this will replace or facilitate? Not only are there usually better ways to measure this cost (man-hours, for example) but they are also crucial in both educating end users as well as teaching them "What’s in it for me?" (WIIFM).
Use cases, as part of a broader strategy and vision, are crucial to ensuring quality content in your ESN.
In the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," there is a quote that says "The man is the head of the family, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head anyway she wants." You can think of the relationship between strategy and content being the same way.
Consider this (worst-case) scenario:
IT department enables Yammer for their users
Email blast is sent out notifying users to try Yammer
No one knows what to post
Sally from accounting posts a bunch of cat videos because why not?
Other people log in to check Yammer, see that it’s nothing but a bunch of cat videos, and never visit the site again
Many users can see tremendous gains from an Enterprise Social Network in the activities that they do on a day to day basis, but most aren’t ready to make the mental leap from "Enterprise Facebook" on their own.
As a social leader, a community manager, or anyone else who has a vested interest in Social Enterprise, it’s your responsibility to help them connect some of the early dots, so that they can continue to fill out the rest of the picture on their own.