Over the last few years, more and more companies have explored enterprise social networking, using social applications to improve communication and collaboration between employees, customers and business partners.

Yet few companies have really integrated social networking into their processes to transform the way they do business. Most implementations of enterprise social networks have been somewhat experimental, and many have failed because they have not made the link with “real work”.

This has led commentators to two disparate, but equally incorrect conclusions. The first view is that enterprise social networking has failed, and companies will fall back on email-dominated collaboration environments. The second is that social business is so now so well established, it’s inherent in all business communication. But if you talk to real people at real companies, the truth is somewhat different. There remains a great deal of interest in social business applications, but perhaps a frustration at the lack of practical advice for implementations that align to their overall business objectives.

It is important to remember that social business is a means to an end. Our ultimate goal is not “to become a social business”; our goal is to communicate more effectively both inside and outside the organisation. Too many social business projects concentrated on adoption – how to get people into a network – rather than what they will use it for once they’re there. In our experience, this is the wrong way round – by clearly identifying the business processes a social network will be used for, adoption follows automatically, because people are compelled to use the network to get their job done.

This series offers pragmatic and practical advice on how to make the journey towards embedding social collaboration in the way people work. Each article will:

  • identify a specific business process or challenge
  • highlight the potential benefits a social network offers to this process
  • illustrates what the implementation would look like, using characters from a fictitious company
  • provide a list of action items to implement the process for real in your own company

The focus is more about good practices, not products or platforms. The business processes will be drawn from across the departments of a typical company, including examples from sales, marketing, customer service, HR and finance.

Hopefully the series will provide a valuable library of examples for kickstarting social business within your company, and will enable you to start using enterprise social networks for real work.