What do IC pros think of enterprise social networks?

What do internal communicators really think of enterprise social networks? How have they changed the role of the modern-day IC pro and what does this mean for organisations?

esnanonAll these topics were up for discussion on Saturday 21 March when I joined 40 people interested in all things internal communication and ESN related at a brand new unconference – #ESNanon.

The day reinforced a lot of the conversations I have with clients.

Things I heard and questions that were asked included:

  • ESNs are becoming commonplace in organisations. They’re not new any more, but there’s still a lot to learn
  • The role of communication professionals is constantly changing
  • Metrics and really understanding what good looks like is a weakness for many communicators and companies
  • The best stories to aid adoption come from within your own organisation
  • People need to move from content management to content curation (I describe that as creation to curation)
  • How can we move from vanity posts to ones of substance?
  • We need to be aware of content fatigue (think I’ll write about this more in a future post, as triggered lots of thoughts)
  • Openness, transparency and sharing are the lifeblood of a great network
  • You’re not alone if you’re struggling to integrate, understand and use ESNs
  • The amount of choice leaves people confused as to the best option/s for their organisation
  • Community Management is a skill IC professionals need to grasp
  • You need to go beyond conversations and bring ESNs into business processes and product/service delivery
  • Culture is the most important element to consider when thinking about ESNs – culture first, technology second
  • There’s a lack of honest product reviews available
  • Storytelling is important when capturing metrics for your ESN
  • The rules of ESNs are variable and depend on your organisation
  • Anti-social cultures are cropping up in companies
  • Decision making between a big bang ESN launch and slow drip build-up – people are unsure what to do
  • You need to search for concrete outcomes to provide evidence of success with leaders
  • Companies are looking for ways to “socialise” employees.

Who organised ESNanon?

ESN anonThree in-house pros, Alex Chapel @achapel01, from KPMG, Kim England @miss_england_19 from Pearson, and Paul Thomas @tallpaul75, from Grant Thornton (pictured left to right) created the event to bring people together to learn and share from each other.

See Paul’s article on my blog to find out more.

As someone who has organised unconferences (see my article on #thebigyak from @theICcrowd), I know how something which looks unstructured takes a lot of planning. So well done Kim, Paul and Alex.

There were lots of familiar faces in the room, which was on the 10th floor of the stunning Pearson office in The Strand (the former Shell building), and I found the day useful. I liked the Polaroid snaps on the wall to work out who was in the room and meeting people face-to-face who I’ve interacted with online.

I always enjoy hearing from my peers and discovering who is doing what inside organisations. It’s a constant reminder to me that people are along various stages of the ESN path – from starting to think about it, to having a mature community in need of further structure.

Topics were determined by the attendees and as they ebbed and flowed throughout the day I found myself practising the “law of two feet.” This meant I swapped between sessions when I didn’t feel I was in the right one any more, the conversation had moved on or wanted to make the most of the time I had. That’s the beauty of unconferences, you get out what you put in. If it’s not working for you any more, just move on.

I also had numerous one-to-one chats with comms pros and helped them think through solutions to ESN problems.

Further reading: See my who is using what for internal social media article to discover 400 case studies.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 22.31.04Live-streaming the day
I used the opportunity to try out hosting a Meerkast for the first time. Meerkat @appmeerkat, is the latest kid on the social media block and allows you to live-stream content, which is then Tweeted (although Twitter has reportedly limited access to the social graph). It’s only available on iOS devices at the moment.

If you follow the tech press like me, you’ll know that Twitter has just acquired Periscope – I expect to see many more live-streams from companies in the months and years to come. Town Halls via Twitter? Totally possible and again a further demonstration of the blurring of internal and external comms.

You can sign up for Periscope’s beta programme if you want to know more or see Meerkat.

If you’re using live-streaming as part of your organisation’s communication and want to write a guest article for my blog, do please read my guidelines and get in touch as I’d love to know more.

I joined Ragan‘s social media discussion with comms pros last week when they were kasting (is that the phrase? I’m sticking with it!) from their social media conference in Chicago.

On Saturday I decided to give it a go for myself and live-streamed a discussion on community management at #esnanon.

It was incredibly simple to do and 18 people tuned in from around the globe to see what we were discussing in London. I’d use it again, but recommend telling people in the room if you’re doing that.

I did and then when the conversation turned to confidential information being shared, I switched it off. Do be honest with people and tell them if you’re kasting/live-streaming.

What did attendees think?


Want to know what other events are on for comms pros to attend? See my comms calendar.

Well done again to the ESNanon team, do see the hashtag via Twitter as it will continue to live longer than the event to share conversations and content the community finds interesting.

I hope it runs again as I could see the value it was bringing people in the room, myself included. I think facilitated sessions would help keep the topics on track – it’s easy to get sidetracked and start a whole new discussion.

If you want to know more about enterprise social networks, see the following articles on my blog:

Thank you for stopping by


ESNanon team picture credit: Dina Vekaria via Twitter.

Post author: Rachel Miller @AllthingsIC

First published on All Things IC blog 27 March 2015.

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