Chatter that matters

What is a enterprise social network? How do you introduce one to an organisation? How do you then encourage employees to use it and ensure it’s not misused? How is Coca-Cola Enterprises tackling these exact questions?

A few weeks ago I wrote about how accountants use enterprise social networks (note – the term can be written either way, Rachel) and also highlighted Forbes’ description of what one is.

My own preferred definition is that an enterprise social network is a way of connecting employees so they can communicate.

It’s most often achieved via high collaboration software (e.g. Yammer) and using social tools. Ideally done, it helps to enhance business within companies by bringing people together to communicate for the benefit of themselves and the organisation.

I asked a contact of mine, Neil Jenkins, to write for Diary of an internal communicator about his experience of introducing a social enterprise network.

Neil is Director of Internal and Digital Communications at Coca-Cola Enterprises and has also held senior internal communications roles at Vodafone and Siemens.

He is on the judging panel for this year’s Digital Impact Awards and you can follow him on Twitter @neil_jenkins. Over to you Neil…

Chatter that matters
In February we invited Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) employees to join Chatter, our new social enterprise network. We’re now approaching 6,000 users after just five months – or nearly 50% of our total workforce.

Their initial response has exceeded our expectations. But hang on, you might be thinking. They’re Coca-Cola. Biggest brand on Facebook. Of course they’ll get social media.

However, our business makes and distributes Coca-Cola products and most employees work in manufacturing or sales. Social media isn’t an automatic fit. So how did we get such an encouraging uptake?

A strong business case
It’s hard to launch a social enterprise network on communication merits alone. Whilst communicators would love a platform buzzing with free-flowing conversations, business leaders want to know how it supports their strategic goals.

For us, there were two clear drivers. First, we’re operating much more in the digital world – selling our products online is becoming as important as from your supermarket or café. Our employees need to be familiar with this environment and its commercial opportunities.

Second, we’d like them to be more productive. Like most organisations, we suffer from email overload. Many of our people are field-based and can struggle to keep up. We needed a way for them to share information more quickly and effectively, especially on the move.

Leadership buy-in
High-level support is critical. Digital communications at CCE is governed by executives representing all areas of the business, including members of our CEO’s team. Their endorsement gave our project confidence and credibility.

There wasn’t a silver bullet, but we came close when one of our field sales VPs spoke at our annual leadership conference about Chatter shortly after its launch.

It was powerful having a respected commercial leader explain how it helps his teams to share best practice, and him to visibly recognise their efforts. Find champions and help them sell the benefits for you.

Don’t assume your employees use social media, just because you do. Our people work in different roles and countries, and access and attitudes to social media vary.

Even at grassroots level, we didn’t position Chatter as a sexy new way of communicating – it was about making their jobs easier, faster and better. This was an important message, especially for line managers who may have seen it as a time-waster – the opposite of what we wanted to achieve.

A journey, not a destination
Chatter has had strong uptake and minimal misuse, but there’s more to do. It’s alive with fantastic photos and experiences shared by our employees in Great Britain who are working on our Olympics activities. We need to make sure our people in France, Benelux, Norway and Sweden don’t feel it’s just for English speakers.

Using Chatter for collaboration with customers and between our manufacturing plants, where nearly half of our employees work and for whom access isn’t as easy, are priorities. And it doesn’t look after itself – community management is a growing capability for our digital communication teams.

So our work so far shows that Chatter matters – but that we can’t stand still.

Thank you for sharing your experience Neil. Too often communicators feel pressured to introduce a new channel into an organisation to be ‘seen’ to be communicating in a specific way, without stopping to think whether it is relevant, appropriate or needed.

I think this story demonstrates clearly the need to tie in business drivers and to have a strong business case for everything we do.

Thanks again Neil.

Like what you’ve read? Want to read more? I’ve published lots of guest posts on my blog and am always on the lookout for more case studies and experiences to share from comms pros. If you’d like to have your say and write for Diary of an internal communicator, do check out my guest guidelines and get in touch.

Feel free to comment below on what you’ve read today,


First published 7 August 2012.


  1. Dan Penton says:

    Very interesting article and good tips on how to get that all important uptake and adoption. It’s an important distinction (and one that all too often is forgotten) that Chatter wasn’t positioned as the new sexy comms tool that’s great looking, but instead as something that would have a positive impact on people’s day-to-day working lives.

    One question from me: is the Chatter that Neil refers to, the Salesforce social network or something they developed themselves and named Chatter? It wasn’t clear in the post.

  2. Paul Thomas says:

    Nice case study.

    I’m interested to know about how Coca Cola positioned this alongside email. In order to reduce reliance on email, did they run parallel advice on how to make the most of both channels?

    At Grant Thornton, we’re repositioning our efforts in this space to align directly with email. At the moment of decision, do you send your communication via email, or put it into Chatter/Yammer/Jive?

    Just interested in the communications Coca Cola used to sell this important piece of the puzzle.

  3. Thank you for your comments gents. I’ve asked Neil to clarify your queries, but as a stab from me – @Dan It’s the salesforce Chatter that you can find here:

    @Paul Great question, am sure Neil will be able to respond to you with more info. Hope your work at Grant Thornton is going well. I would be interested in knowing more about what you’re doing if you’d like to share with readers via a future article? Thanks again for your comments, Rachel

  4. Ben Thompson says:

    Great article and timely, as we’re about to launch a similar project at our company. Would be interested in examples from people at other companies who have done this too.

  5. Paul Thomas says:

    Would be happy to. We’re at a crucial time in terms of sign off but in a privileged position as we have almost 12 months of work, trial and a little but of error behind us. Means the vision is there and also a big push from above in terms of board support and brand changes that support genuine cultural change.

    The vision is fine, that’s why I’m interested in the sell. Crucial for us to get it right or we’ll just increase our reliance on the inbox.

  6. @Ben Great stuff, hope it goes well. I’ve written about introducing enterprise social networks a few times on my blog, mainly Yammer. Search my tag cloud or see: Do let me know how you get on and if you have insights you can share.

    @Paul Thank you that would be good. Sounds like you’re on the right tracks and trial/error along the way should mean you’re rolling out something which has been tailored to fit your organisation’s requirements – fingers crossed! The sell is key, I mentioned Lexis Nexis recently in this article: as I know they purely post some content (vacancies) via Yammer, in a bid to drive traffic and presumably stop doubling-up messages and effort, Rachel

  7. Neil Jenkins says:

    Thanks for the feedback, guys.

    @Dan – Yes, it is Salesforce Chatter that we use.

    @Paul – the launch of Chatter was part of a wider campaign to encourage our employees to make more use of all of our digital tools and channels, including instant messaging and a new social intranet which we launched two months after Chatter. This campaign included email – we recognised it still has a place, but that other tools could be more effective in certain scenarios. But as with any communication we plan, the channel we use is determined by the audience, message and urgency.

  8. Suzanne Roach says:

    Great post! We’re just going through a test phase with Chatter at the moment but will be launching to all employees in October.

    Neil – it would be great to hear more about your plans for your manufacturing employees, this is one area which really concerns me for our roll out and how we get them engaged. Have you started on this yet or is it just in your future plans?

  9. Thanks for your comment Suzanne. Do let me know how you get on and if you fancy writing a guest article for my blog about your experiences rolling it out, you’d be welcome to, Rachel

  10. Neil Jenkins says:

    @Suzanne – all of our employees were invited to join Chatter when we launched in February, including manufacturing, but we want to increase the uptake and usage at our plants. So we’ll be looking at ways we can do this in the coming months. Good luck with your own launch!

  11. When you set up a meeting room, you provide the space for effective collaborative work, but you do not define precisely what that room is to be used for. You allow your employees to use common sense and entrepreneurial spirit to figure that all out.

    I believe a similar approach is needed for enterprise social networks. The freedom to operate within a framework allows employees to discover the tool and define purposes that can evolve with the role and respond to current needs.

  12. Thanks for your contribution Jonathan, great analogy and spot on, Rachel

  13. […] featured an article on my blog about How Coca-Cola Enterprises use Chatter. Neil Jenkins, Director of Internal and Digital Communications at Coca-Cola Enterprises told me: […]

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