Enterprise Social Networks and the 3 Bears

Published under Creative CommonsAs I start to look at my new role of Enterprise Social Networking Strategist with Yammer, I have this great opportunity to really start to peel back the layers of the onion on the challenges faced by enterprises in their quest to “be social”.

One of the questions that I get asked most often is about how to help new users get started in an Enterprise Social Network. Often times I will respond with the very unsatisfying “It depends” answer. I wanted to take this opportunity to help people start to understand why there is no simple answer for this.

The Momma bear network – This network is your initial network, where it is just starting out and you need to feed and nurture the network. Often times this requires a lot of hand holding, trying to get a community that is self-sustainable, and helping people realize the “What’s in it for me?” value proposition. Often times in a large company you are greeted by comments like “Don’t you have anything better to do?” or “Oh, so I can tell people when I’m going to the bathroom or what I’m having for lunch?”.  You will usually find that highly connected users are amongst the first early adopters. It’s easy to keep up with everything because message volume is usually low. As an early adopter, your ability to deal with the gradual increase of traffic is fairly easy. New users come in expecting something, but there’s very little content to help them get it instantly, so you will spend a lot of time sharing a vision.

The Baby Bear Network – This is the network that’s “Just right” in many ways. You have passed the point of self-sustainability and have a good set of users contributing and some are starting to realize the need to filter out some content that may be considered noise. It is still possible to keep up with all activity but it’s getting a little more challenging. People in the company know about the network, but may not totally understand what it has to offer. New users come in, and although they are a little overwhelmed, there are plenty of people who can share some basic tips & tricks to help them get started.

The Poppa Bear Network – This is a well established network. The users have been on it for a while and the daily flow of traffic is making it almost impossible to keep up with everything that is going on. There has been proven business value and there are seasoned veterans that want to help new people, but they lack the perspective starting off in this type of network. As new users join the network, and are instantly overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. They quickly give up and say that Enterprise Social Networks are not for me.

By understanding which type of network you are in today, it can better help you understand not only which problems you should be facing today, but also know what problems you will be facing in the future so you are prepared for them.

Over my next few posts, I will delve a little deeper into some common challenges and some ways to help getting people up and productive using Enterprise Social Networks. Please feel free to share any tips techniques that you have used to help users in your networks.

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