But, as with any technology, social business tools can be used effectively, or they can be the productivity sinks IT and business managers feared they would be. Here are some best practices for making your employees more effective and productive on social business tools.
1. Set Clear Goals
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it's not unusual for organizations to throw a social business platform against the wall to see what functions stick, rather than roll it out in a systematic and purposeful way. Yes, there are elements of social networking that can and should be organic, but your organization's reasons for using a social business platform and its plan for implementation and use should not be.
2. Don't Isolate Social Channels
All too often, companies bring in a social business system only to relegate it to some figurative corner of the business. For a social business platform to be effective, it has to be integrated into the business. "Companies see business value from social software when they integrate it directly into their daily flow of work," said Michael Idinopulos, chief customer officer at Socialtext.
[ For related advice, see How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors. ]
But this is not to say that all business processes are suitable for social. "If you want social enterprise tools to be widely adopted in your organization, move applicable business processes into the systems -- note the word 'applicable," not 'all,'" said Mike Puglia, VP of marketing at TimeTrade Systems. "For example, we've moved our internal customer request process to a Chatter Group with approvals. Everyone follows this group, and requests are now transparent to the organization. People can comment on the wall and approval for requests can be granted, as opposed to filling in and emailing a spreadsheet which had limited visibility and duplicated a majority of work."
3. Extend Social Systems To Mobile
For users to be truly productive on social business systems, they must have access to them anywhere and at any time. "The benefits of collaboration tools are amplified when they can collaborate remotely," said Catherine Brown, VP of marketing for project management software vendor Mavenlink.
4. Don't Treat Internal Social Business Platforms As "Facebook For The Enterprise"
In the early days of social business software, vendors often referred to their wares as some variation of "Facebook for the enterprise." That made sense at the time, as the description helped organizations get their heads around how and why social networking could be used for business purposes. But social business is much more than just Facebook's paradigm plunked down behind the firewall, and users should be discouraged from treating it as such.
5. Develop Guidelines With More Do's Than Don'ts
Companies that are making effective use of social business software have clear guidelines for its use, and those guidelines tell users what they should be doing on social platforms -- both internal and external -- as much as what they shouldn't be doing. In fact, many experts who have spoken with The BrainYard say that social guidelines should err on the side of positivity, encouraging participation and giving users clear direction on what they should be doing on social platforms and why.