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Get social: how networks can impact your business
COLLABORATION

Get social: how networks can impact your business 

 

When employees have access to external social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn at the office, they can use them productively to gain a competitive advantage over their firm’s rivals. Slaughter explained that workers can learn from their competitors’ mistakes, especially in the customer-facing realm. Social networks also have a positive effect when used internally at a company. Employees that share information communicate better, and data is not trapped in departmental or locational siloes. “The biggest benefit of enterprise social networks is from the increase in collaboration and communication that comes from employees interacting with one another,” Slaughter asserted.

TemboSocial’s VP has witnessed the incredible impact internal social networks can have on businesses. “Social networks are most effective at saving a company when communication, collaboration, and trust issues are preventing the organization from being competitive,” he said.

Slaughter noted that these issues tend to crop up when a company grows beyond a certain point. “There is a well-documented problem of when a small business transitions to a mid-size company, and the number of employees at the company starts to exceed Dunbar’s number,” he remarked. Dunbar’s number refers to the limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. When a company reaches 150 employees, not everyone knows each other’s names, not everyone communicates with one another, and communication begins to break down.

However, companies with fewer than 150 employees can also benefit from internal social networks. Slaughter pointed out that it is simple to stay up to date by logging into a social network on a daily basis. Even at a small business, communication can still break down. “You can’t have everyone in every meeting all the time,” Slaughter commented.

He does not see many barriers to deploying social networks. “The internal social network is a very mainstream idea these days, and even very, very large companies like IBM and Microsoft sell enterprise social networks,” Slaughter remarked. In fact, TemboSocial’s VP believes adoption will increase in the coming years due to the rising numbers of Millennials in the workforce. “The workers of this generation – those in their 20s – use social tools extensively outside of the office, and they are going to expect the same kind of social communication tools at work as well,” he commented. Slaughter acknowledged that older generations might not readily embrace these tools, although he does not see that as an obstacle. “So while there may be pushback on adoption from older workers, by all indications, Millennials are very quick to adopt and use these tools productively,” he added.

Another benefit Slaughter sees from internal social networks is trust-building. Trust, and lack thereof, can be a barrier to deploying social networks in the enterprise, though. “We don’t see this objection as much as we used to, but it does come up occasionally,” he said. Decision makers admit there are benefits to internal social networks; however, there is a lack of confidence in employees. “There is sometimes a belief that an enterprise social network will devolve into pictures of kids and cats, like on Facebook,” Slaughter noted.

Slaughter has a response to this fear: “One of the things say to this is that employers trust their employees with the keys to the office and access to critical systems, so why do they not trust them to communicate with each other?” He cited an IBM study that showed that employees used internal social networks to learn more about people they don’t know and to maintain relationships with the ones that they do. In addition, they also treated the network differently than they would Facebook – that is to say, they only posted professional content. Slaughter emphasized that placing trust in your employees can lead to positive outcomes, especially when it comes to using social media to build and maintain connections.{module Gone in 60 seconds}

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