Most of the attention from businesses regarding social media is directed toward external social media efforts – ways of connecting with current and potential customers and clients. That’s understandable. Likewise, most of the resources available for online community managers are also aimed at those responsible for external communities. That, too, is understandable.
In all the attention given to external social, however, it is too often the case that a potentially transforming use of internal social media for companies gets neglected. What about the employees who do the day-to-day work in service of those customers? What about those who work to improve products, services and processes for the good of the customer and ultimately the business? Why is there too often a lack of attention on the very same form of communication – social media – for and among employees who have the same needs as external stakeholders for quick, effective, modern communication and collaboration?
Granted, many companies have successfully implemented enterprise social networks (ESN) for their employees and many more are jumping on board the ESN train regularly. But there are still far too many skeptics, and even for those who understand the potential and devote themselves to their internal collaboration platforms, finding adequate, thorough, well-written, up-to-date, helpful ESN resources is at best a challenge.
That’s why last summer I started researching the possibility of starting a weekly Twitter chat for those interested in enterprise social networking, launching #ESNchat in September 2013. It has grown into a steady, reliable source of weekly exchanges between talented, experienced, knowledgeable people who eagerly share their insights each Thursday for an hour at 2:00 pm EST. It is a joy and privilege for me to host that hour weekly. Through it I have become acquainted with kindred spirits around the globe who share my passion for enterprise social networking – both from the vendor and the business user perspective.
Now it’s time to take the next step.
It’s time the ESN community had a thorough, helpful, regularly updated and freely available handbook to help shape the future of enterprise social networks. It’s time we gathered in one spot the best advice, the best stories, the most insightful guidance, even the what-not-to-do’s so that there can be a solid step forward in the maturity and practice of ESNs worldwide.
While there may be a number of individuals qualified to author such a handbook by themselves, it seems to me that in the spirit of social collaboration, the best final product possible would be one that results from a number of enthusiastic, experienced devotees working together to produce a handbook that benefits from the combined wisdom and experience of many contributors.
To that end, I’m calling on my new-found friends and colleagues connected with #ESNchat and others who may be interested to work with me on writing and publishing what we believe to be the best handbook possible for those involved with enterprise social networks. Our first step in gathering thoughts about doing so will be the focus of the weekly #ESNchat on Thursday, Feb. 13 from 2:00-3:00 pm EST on Twitter.
Here are some of my thoughts on what might be involved with this journey:
- We need to collectively determine which subjects are to be covered in the first edition of such a handbook.
- We should match each of those subjects with one or more individuals to be the primary authors for those chapters.
- Time should be given to allow advance previews and suggestions for improvement by a number of interested parties – not just the primary authors of each chapter.
- We should consider adding sections throughout or at the end of each chapter for brief comments and insights from others in addition to the chapter’s main authors.
- We can make use of the #ESNchat archives to sprinkle tidbits of wisdom throughout the book on a host of subjects, embedding relevant tweets.
- Research will have to be done on the best tools to use in the collaborative writing process and publishing of the handbook.
- The final product should be available at least as a free PDF download, and potentially in additional formats as well. I am not pursuing this to earn a penny; I am pursuing this to advance the field.
- The handbook should be a living document with updates no less than annually and likely more often as needed for individual chapters to stay current.
- It should not be owned or copyrighted by any ESN vendor, remaining vendor-neutral just as is #ESNchat, although experts employed by ESN vendors should be allowed to contribute as long as they do more than merely promote their product.
I’ve never written a book before (although there is the equivalent of about 3-4 average-size books among the nearly 600 posts on this blog). There is much about the process I have to learn. However, I think the time is right to collaborate with my ESN friends and colleagues and produce a regularly updated handbook that can become the primary resource those involved with enterprise social networks turn to for information on how to start, grow and manage successful ESNs in any size or type of organization.
So who is with me? If the idea sparks your interest and you think you may want to be a part of this effort during 2014, then join me for #ESNchat on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 2:00 pm EST on Twitter. If you can’t join (or missed) that hour, get in touch with me and tell me which aspects of an effort like this mesh well with your knowledge, skills and experience.
Even though the field of enterprise social networking has been around for several years, there is much room for growth. I believe having a superb, regularly updated handbook on the subject can be a significant influence in where the field goes in the years ahead.
I look forward to the challenge and the journey with those who choose to join me in the effort.