How to become a social enterprise

Demonstrating the ROI of  a company's internal social media platform can be challenging as there is often no easy answer to measuring the value that new collaboration and communication platforms provide.

As with any new way of working, providing a solid business case is crucial, especially when planning to expand on schemes and ask for additional resources going forward.

Last year, we launched ‘Campus Digital’, an internal social workspace built on Jive, an out-of-the-box software provider.

>See also: FEATURE: Mobile collaboration in the enterprise

Campus Digital brings over 6,000 employees globally together in one place. It’s a space to find (people, groups, documents, forms), connect (with colleagues and collaborate) and share (knowledge, best practice and news).

It is a space to make working together easier. It breaks down silos and allows us to be less autonomous – working together to become more than the sum of our parts.

1. How can departments outside of the marketing function of organisations prove the value of their internal social media schemes?

Value is determined by the particular function or division. Each function and division has varying business needs so the purpose for their usage will differ. Ultimately it should relate directly to delivering on the overall company vision and plan.

For Macmillan Science and Education, the goal for our social workspace was to provide a place for people to connect and collaborate. It delivers on one of our brand promises – a ‘space to connect’ – which is a key driver for delivering on value and our promise internally.

2. What are some ways of measuring objective metrics?

Our social workspace is still in its infancy; in fact, it has just had its first anniversary. In the past year we’ve grown our community by 100%, from 3,000 at launch to 6,000 now. We expect that number to increase over the coming months as we lead engagement to further our user adoption.

To date we have been measuring specific metrics that determine it as a space to connect. The high flows of traffic to ‘People’, our virtual directory, determines it is successful in allowing people to find each other, something that previously was quite challenging due to a vast number of intranets that were running in parallel.

Every user has the opportunity to build their own personal profile within the People directory, much like that of other external social platforms. Having a completed profile allows a user to make the connections that matter most and offer value for their role.

>See also: Lack of social media archiving exposes UK businesses to risk

However, measuring it as a collaboration tool is a bit more complicated. We know that there have been a number of inter-business collaborations since our launch, but finding out about them relies on visible participation on the workspace itself or via good word of mouth from those involved.

We regularly look at the total number of groups set up – business versus social. At the moment 97% of groups are business orientated and we are confident it is already changing the way we work together.

3. Can and should internal social media results be measured in the same way as external social media- are we asking the right questions when it comes to ROI?

There are a number of results that can be measured in the same way such as KPIs, reach and engagement. But the big difference between an internal and external community is that external communities’ ROI is largely dependent on transactions.

For an external space, an increase in sales is a quantifiable ROI, but this is very difficult to find with an internal space.

When it comes to measuring results internally they tend to be more anecdotal – success stories and use cases are what really play back its value. This is something that we have started to build on.

4. How can companies measure more subjective/anecdotal performance indicators beyond analytical evidence?

Words alone won’t deliver on measurement – but hand-in-hand with numbers, words can point towards statistical measures.

Sometimes the analysis of individual commentary on a piece of content can lead to greater findings. It’s the combination of facts and figures or scorecards that can align with the business objectives, alongside tracking (likes, followers and views) and testimonials that will help deliver a framework for concrete success stories that exhibit value and are beyond analytical evidence.  

An example of this came from a recent comment seen in my activity feed. It led to a blog that had many more comments from users across our business.

On reviewing, the comments I realised that two of our businesses – Scientific American (US based) and Maths Doctor (UK based) – had joined up on a project together.

They are still piloting the idea so I can’t reveal anything at this stage. However, what I can say is that I honestly believe that without Campus Digital, connecting these two businesses would previously have been challenging, and this type of collaboration less likely to take place.

5. How can companies prove the long-term benefits beyond initial ROI?

Our workspace will continue to act as a space to connect, and deliver on our initial ROI through that. However, proving the long-term benefits will come from truly embedding it into our organisational culture, making it a one-stop shop to get our work done.

>See also: Next big thing: Preparing for the Internet of Things in the enterprise

This is something we are already working towards by integrating and migrating other legacy platforms and processes. In the future we would like to think that our social workspace will be the hub of an ecosystem bringing together everyone and everything we need in one place.

6. How can companies define suitable goals?

Suitable goals come from being realistic – goals are only achievable it they are a true representative of something both the business and individuals can deliver on. It’s good to be ambitious within your company vision and goals but again only if those ambitions are reachable and can become a reality.

7. In what ways can being a social enterprise actually save money?

Being a social enterprise can save money through a number of different ways. It can eliminate costly corporate communications; allow problems to be solved quickly and in real-time; provide a library of knowledge and best practice you can learn from; make you more time efficient, freeing you up to focus on the things that really matter to you in your role; and enable you to collaborate more effectively.

8. What are some of the most successful social enterprises doing right?

Since our launch we have built a network with other companies who are using enterprise social networks (ESNs), to share our experiences and learn from each other.

As with anything social, it’s an organic experience, and we’ve learnt that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s always good and reassuring to hear from others on their approaches and solutions to the same challenges you might have experienced in your organisation.

Early on, we recruited community managers to help drive participation and content creation, which really helped give momentum and continues to drive user adoption.

Over the last year, it has become very evident that leadership engagement is an extremely important driver for the success of initiatives like our social workspace. This is something that we hear not only from our staff, but from the companies around us using ESNs.

Visibility from the top down really does encourage usage and help us to deliver a shared story. Campus Digital is an integral part of our philosophy to put technology at the core of what we do.

9. Are we moving towards the era of the social enterprise where businesses get serious about bringing the consumer world of social media ubiquity into their operations?

A growing number of organisations are working towards being more social and doing business via tools that enable real-time conversations and collaborations inside. But it is still early days – many businesses are put off by the ubiquity and transparency they can offer.

I believe that transparency can gain employer confidence in how we do business and the role they play in achieving it.

A social enterprise can offer a truly connected organisation, with more capabilities to unleash the knowledge of the collective – that in itself is a very powerful tool to drive business growth.

>See also: IT modernisation for digital enterprises: Think big, think digital, but start small

As time goes on I think more organisations will see the benefits of being social. For us, being social has already facilitated a number of core business initiatives and it continues to help us transform the way we work together.

At the moment, our workspace is purely for internal usage, but in the future perhaps we will join up our internal and external communities so that we can engage with our staff and our customers on the same platform.

Avatar photo

Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

Related Topics