The Challenge of Building a Social Network

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Social media has transformed the way that we use the Internet and the way that we connect with others. Over the past decade, being social online changed in many ways. At first, there was just IRC or other chat programs that allowed anyone with a computer to talk with others. Then, instant messengers arrived on the scene, followed by blogging sites like LiveJournal. As more and more people began logging on and wanting to share information, websites like MySpace let them connect with friends and family. Today, it's Facebook, Twitter and Google+ leading the way toward a more social computer experience.


These days, it's not just people who want to get connected – even businesses have gotten into the act. For many companies both large and small, having a social networking framework means that employees can communicate and collaborate, no matter how far apart they are geographically. However, there are still some challenges that corporate social networking faces. The biggest one is security. It isn't always feasible for employees to communicate using the very public social networking options due to the sensitive nature of their work. That's why many companies are turning to IT professionals to find or create a solution to their social networking problem.


Although there are several options for business social networking, like Yammer or Jive, many of these sites just don't have the high number of users and contributors to make them successful. Even though there are more and more social sites coming online every day, it seems that employees still aren't using them.


According to a recent report from Forbes, the challenge facing social enterprise is a complex one. For starters, it seems that even though management believes that helping employees get connected is important, the employees simply aren't buying it. In fact, a survey about the use of social enterprise solutions showed that most companies polled report that only 10-20% of their employees use social media at work.


The survey, which was conducted by DachisGroup, revealed that while 41% of executives and managers agreed that social media helps build and maintain corporate culture, only 20% of employees agreed. When asked if social media allows for greater transparency, 38% of executives agreed while a mere 17% of employees agreed.


It's a large discrepancy between what management believes and what the employees feel is true. However, it isn't just large companies that have this problem. Another survey from Forrester Research, which polled a much larger group, had similar results. According to them, less than 28% of employees say that they use social media at least once a month. That means that 80% of employees use social media less than once a month or even never.


So, why are so few employees using social media and what can be done to increase participation and engagement? For one thing, IT professionals and executives can ensure that employees are given adequate training on how to use the tools and that they are shown how the tools can help them communicate more effectively. It's important to remember that for some people, social media, including social sites like Facebook, represent a new technology and a new way of doing thing. Since many people are resistant to change and are happy with the way that they currently use technology, they may not see any reason to switch.


In addition, IT and the executives who make decisions about social media might find that the tools they think are important aren't always the tools that employees will actually use. While micro-blogging and posting status updates are an integral part of the social media experience, research has shown that a large majority of employees prefer to use more familiar communication techniques like forums and message boards. Although discussion groups and message boards have been around for a long time, they provide a way for employees to ask questions and search for relevant information without having to be bogged down by newsfeeds and shared content.


By understanding the challenges faced by employees, IT professionals can create social media solutions that are practical, useful and give employees a reason to utilize the tools and actively participate. A social media solution that combined the features that employees already know and love with intuitive and useful social networking would increase participation and encourage employee engagement.


What do you think about social enterprise solutions? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks John. I agree, social media does make it more of a challenge to build an maintain a reputation. The worst is that some people just enjoy posting mean things about others because there is no negative social consequence.
  • John P
    John P
    I believe Social media is a good tool but needs to be handled very fragile. It just take one person to attempt to smudge your reputation and your business. I like reading peoples opinions and expertise backgrounds. I do believe you could meet lots interesting people that could benefit you accordingly.  Thank you

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