Social Business : begin by a social media strategy or deploy an enterprise social network first ?


Often people wonder if they have to begin to deploy an enterprise social network inside to develop a collaborative culture, or begin by a social media presence on the internet. The good point is more and more people don’t ask why they have to do that, but how they’ll do it. People like the Altimeters group has an answer, because for them the internal transformation is there to help you to scale up your social media strategy. If their study is a good one, may be there is few more details to answer to this issue.


Of course it means that the enterprise own a digital vision, but she hasn’t begin to set up something on these two dimensions. Because companies which are already active on social medias through their communication department or marketing, will push to begin by social media, then internal transformation afterward. At the opposite, companies which own an enterprise social network will defend the other point of view. But there is some light differences between the two positions.

Those which have an activity on social media (Facebook or others) are managing it with a community manager or a small social team. If they are more mature with some  employee advocates for the brand. But those with an enterprise social network see generaly this second stage on social media more easily with most of the employees of the companies, thinking that their employees are more social and thanks to the ESN are used to chat. So all of them are potential advocates. Of course, there is a gap between this idyllic vision from the team who lead the enterprise social network project and the reality. Just because all the employees won’t want to represent their company on the web, or because the management is less enthusiastic with this idea of advocates.

But what about a third dimension, a collaborative approach with your partners or with the suplyers. Usually no one chat about this dimension, except when you have some external integrated staff or a policy of outsourcing. And even in that case, the anwser is let’s see that in a second time. But quickly the issue will rise again, because if you work with these people on a common project, how do you share the information (mail, ESN…). Then you have a waste of time, duplicate, information lost, different level of comprehension or sharing between the teams.

Of course, the right answer should, do the both at the same time (even the three). As McKinsey showed in a study, it’s the same mindset and culture on the third dimension and allow synergies, add values for the three dlmensions. But as usual, it’s a theory and I’ve never met a company which begin to build at the same time these three social dimensions. So my answer is simple. Practical versus theorical.

For which of these dimensions, there are some sponsors ? A real operationnal need, mature enough to set up a pilot which will succeed (even if nothing is sure) and allow a snowball effect. As usual, just begin from your needs, your maturity level and be sure that the social is an anwser to a business issue, not just a trendy thing to make. Your employees are already on the social media, use that to organize them, facilitate the work and get the most added value for them and the organization. You have many demands to set up an enterprise social network, or there is already so many existing Linkedin group, don’t wait anymore, just move, be social.

At the end, all these dimensions will feed the other, like for a Social CRM project where you need a social media strategy and an internal transformation with in particular an internal collaborative tool. So don’t ask yourself too many questions, if it works, you’ll be on the two others dimension soon.