Why Companies Are Leaving Enterprise Social Networks Behind

By Bill Zoelle, Chief Creative Officer

Published: October 28, 2014

506_4316060 “In a great IT industry irony, enterprise social networking (ESN) software, designed to boost interaction and collaboration, is often ignored by users and ends up forgotten like the proverbial ghost town with rolling tumbleweeds.” –PC World In the grand scheme of things, the Internet is just a baby. Not only is it the concept too new for many to grasp, but it changes so quickly that very few people can keep up. In the 1990s, companies understood that the social aspect of the Internet would be an important way to connect with audiences, and also help them to connect with each other. Chat rooms were born, and segmented websites — like Classmates.com — brought likeminded people together. But since the majority of the population joined non-segmented social media sites like Facebook or MySpace, where are Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) left? Enterprise Social Networks are like other social networks in many ways, but they are directed toward one specific group of people. This can include classmates, friends, or even co-workers. Some companies have started intranet servers for the sharing of information, which can include chatrooms that only employees can access. “Employees are seeing this as a way of enlarging their sphere and interacting with colleagues,” said Amy Shuen, author of Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide, explaining how the interaction can be more than social. “People don’t just chat; they connect with people and end up talking about things that have an impact on the business.” The idea was similar to Facebook, but it never seemed to take off. One reason may have been because different levels of technological understanding by employees left many feeling left out. Another was that the employees had to go out of their way to sign on. It was left up to the company to make sure the employees were joining the revolution. “Make sure support is there throughout the organization,” said Patricia Romeo, the leader of Deloitte LLP’s ESN. “Once the platform begins filling with valuable content, it’s really about viral adoption.” But that viral adoption never happened. In 2013, Microsoft purchased ESN Yammer, which then became “the brand that represents the entire industry,” according to Tech Republic. But because of the difficulty using Yammer and its wide adoption, many companies have abandoned any plan for an ESN altogether. Companies are evolving faster than some of the programs, and many have given up ESN software for similar (but easier) ideas like employee Facebook groups. The future of the ESN industry is in question, but for now, it’s not looking good – at least not without a solid process behind you.