Archive for the ‘#ESNchat’ Category

ESNchat-smallOne of the most satisfying things I’ve done professionally in recent years is to start the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat in September 2013, to see it grow through the 13 months I hosted it, and now to see it have new life and new leadership going forward through The Community Roundtable (@TheCR). After sensing a void in the world of enterprise social networking in the summer of 2013, I started the chat to provide a regular, free, vendor-neutral place where practitioners and enthusiasts involved with businesses’ internal social networks could share insights and help develop the field of enterprise social.

My friends at TheCR were receptive to the idea of them becoming the leaders for the chat when I approached them in August 2014. They kindly agreed to take on the challenge and as of October 2 they have been the very capable facilitators of the chat. Now that a little time has passed since the transition, I’ve had time to ponder the journey of that 13 months. I’ll share a few simple reflections on the experience here.

I recall the first chat on September 12, 2013. I had secured the domain name and the Twitter persona, discussed it with a number of people in the field, and started promoting it as best I knew how (which wasn’t very well in hindsight). I recall how nervous I was before that first chat wondering if anyone would show up. Had I done all this planning in vain? Was it going to be a giant failure that embarrassed me publicly? I was jittery as the hour approached from the uncertainty of it all.

Thankfully, people showed up (phew – that was a relief)! We had a great discussion and the chat was immediately an important part of my week and an opportunity to try to move the needle of enterprise social networking forward in some small way.

While the subject of enterprise social networking is near and dear to my heart as the community manager for Humana’s ESN, this effort was never under the auspices of my work. It was just Jeff’s little effort for good or bad, for success or failure. I never counted a single hour of the time devoted to #ESNchat as time working for Humana. That makes it all the more satisfying now that over a year later we typically have about 40 participants, hundreds of tweets, and excellent conversation every week.

I am thankful for the 225 participants we had over that first 13 months and I enjoy seeing new faces every week in the chat. I am thankful for the great archive of topics we have accumulated over time and continue to build under TheCR’s leadership.

There were a couple of surprises and disappointments along the way. For example, I woefully underestimated the amount of time per week it took to host a one-hour Twitter chat. I didn’t track the time in detail, but my best guess is that it took on average about an hour a day seven days a week due to the planning, archiving, promoting, and notifying participants of updates. That was a bit more than I bargained for, but it was time well spent.

The only real disappointment I experienced in the 13 months hosting is totally my own doing in that I did not bring to fruition the ESN Handbook I envisioned as a collaborative effort among participants. Given the existing commitment of time just to pull off the chat (along with other work and volunteer activities), I couldn’t get the handbook done. There’s a collaborative ESN Handbook eBook/website out there just waiting to be created and annually updated for some entrepreneurial group (hint, hint).

Now that I’m a regular participant in the chat with no leadership responsibilities, I get to experience weekly what those 225+ others have experienced rather than frantically trying to host the chats and simultaneously take part in the conversation. Frankly, it’s a bit more fun now for me and a lot less stressful.

One of my key lessons learned for 2013 was to take risks. When I wrote about that end-of-year lesson, I had #ESNchat in mind. It would have been easy to bemoan the absence of such a free, public forum for ESN practitioners. It would have been easy to think someone else should do it. It isn’t easy for introverts like me (yes, I’m an introvert) to put myself out there so publicly and try to start something that could go down in flames quickly. But I gave it my best shot and with the regular participation of many talented, knowledgeable professionals whom I have come to know and respect, we succeeded.

Now when I sit back for a moment in chats led by TheCR, when I see new faces introduce themselves, when I read the kudos from participants who benefit from the chats, and when I develop new professional relationships with fellow ESN enthusiasts, I smile a quiet but very satisfying smile like a proud papa watching his child grow up and go out into the world on his own.

Chats only succeed when there are multiple people chatting. I may have started it, but only through others’ involvement has it continued, and I am grateful for each participant. I look forward to seeing where it goes from here. Where will it be in one year? Two Years? What innovations will TheCR introduce (such as the #ESNchat Mini-Decks they’ve already introduced)? What actions will come from the chats? What takeaways will be implemented in businesses of all shapes and sizes that make a positive difference in those organizations’ internal communications and social collaboration?

There is no way of knowing the answer to those questions, but I am quietly confident that such applications will be made and the impact will be significant over time.

Thanks to all who joined me in the venture. Continue to join me and so many others weekly on Thursday afternoons at 2pm Eastern time as TheCR leads us into the next phase of ESNchat. The future is bright!

Time to Take #ESNchat to the Next Level!

Posted: September 24, 2014 in #ESNchat
Tags: ,

ESNchat-smallI’m very pleased to announce that as of Thursday, October 2, 2014 the good people at The Community Roundtable will take over ownership of my weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat. Some of the great benefits to the #ESNchat community will include the ability for @TheCR to have multiple people involved with leadership of the chat, more extensive promotional efforts behind it than I personally have been able to provide, expertise from years of research and organizing conversations between community practitioners, and a much broader network of practitioners and enthusiasts than I bring to the table, while still maintaining the ESN vendor-neutral position that has been so important to the success of #ESNchat. We got a taste last week in my absence of how well TheCR’s Hillary Boucher can host a chat, so we will all benefit from more of Hillary’s leadership along with others from TheCR.

This has been a great journey for me that began in the summer of 2013 when I started searching for a free online gathering place for Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) practitioners, vendors and enthusiasts. While there were some closed communities provided for those who use specific vendors, I wanted more than that in order to help nudge the industry forward. There needed to be a place where anyone using any platform could meet with others and discuss specific ESN topics of interest, learning from each other and building up a repository of content that could help many others along the way. Therefore, #ESNchat was born September 12, 2013.

Since its inception we’ve had about 230 wonderful people take part in the chats, currently averaging about 30-40 participants per week sharing hundreds of tweets each chat. Each week sees us adding a few new people. Some participants on the other side of the globe even ended up spawning a new chat of their own at a time more convenient to them. I’ve met an incredible network of people from whom I have learned much and will continue to learn from in the years ahead.

But I’m just one person who has been doing this in his free time outside of work and all my other volunteer activities. It may not seem like much of a time commitment to host a one-hour chat weekly, but there is a lot more that goes into it than meets the eye with planning topics, securing featured guests, archiving chats, sending reminders out about coming chats and posted archives, other ongoing promotional efforts, plus the other residual impact of requests for interviews, consulting, speaking engagements, etc. – all of which I love, of course, but which tends to cut into time which should usually be devoted to other things. I never got around, for example, to working with chat participants to co-author an ESN Handbook we discussed earlier in the year due to sheer limitation of time for more #ESNchat work than I was already doing.

Additionally, my role at work has recently expanded to not just be the community manager for our ESN, but to lead a small team of community managers who also have responsibility for our external social media, plus I’m now working with internal lines of business to consult with them as they stand up external online communities for their focused audiences. My work focus, therefore, is shifting more to community management for internal and external communities as well as launching new external-facing communities while still continuing to manage our ESN. As such, I don’t feel like it’s appropriate for me to devote so many hours per week purely to leading #ESNchat when ESNs are no longer my sole focus at work.

Since TheCR will be able to share the load of all that needs to be done among multiple people, I feel better about their ownership of it going forward. That’s why I approached them with the idea last month. I’ve been a member of TheCR for years and am continually impressed with the quality of their people and all they do. While they, of course, have paid membership (which I recommend) for those who want those benefits, #ESNchat participation will remain freely available to all as any Twitter chat should be.

Here’s what to expect over the next couple of weeks:

  • I’ll still host the chat on September 25 as I usually do. The topic will be Favorite ESN Resources.
  • Hillary Boucher and others from TheCR will co-host with me the chat on October 2 as we take a look back at what has transpired in #ESNchat to date and consider where we all want it to go in the future.
  • My final role as host will be at the end of the October 2 chat, after which TheCR will immediately assume ownership.
  • We will communicate with participants as soon as we can about the location of resources like chat archives and any website information about the chat. Related to that, I’ll be transferring ownership of the domain for them to use as they see fit. It currently points to a section of my blog, but that will change soon.
  • I have no plans to remove the existing chat archive links from my blog or to change the availability of the Storify archives from my account there, although I will not continue to personally archive future chats after the handoff to TheCR. They will assume that task as they see fit.
  • I want to create an ebook PDF compilation of all the chat archives from September 12, 2013 through October 2, 2014 that I will make freely available to all once it is complete. That will be a nice way to package up and give away my gift of a year’s ESN content to this wonderful community.

I cannot thank enough those of you who have come into my life over the past year as a result of #ESNchat. I started the chat solely to try to nudge the industry forward and I think in a small way we’re doing exactly that. I’m grateful for the speaking and other opportunities my role in the endeavor has provided, but those, too, take time that I ought to be devoting elsewhere. The journey has been amazing.

I’m not going away, though! I’ll still be a regular participant as a practitioner and… well… a proud papa can’t just walk away from his baby! So thank you to my faithful #ESNchat friends for making every Thursday from 2-3pm EDT one of my favorite hours of each and every week. Continue with me as active participants in what I know will be a great second year for #ESNchat under new leadership. Let’s all do what we can to keep moving the needle in the right direction so that enterprise social networking grows and makes the significant business impact for our companies and organizations that we all know is possible with this great form of communication.

You can read TheCR’s post about this development here. Onward and upward!

BlankBookOn February 13 I hosted a Twitter chat on the subject of imagining your ideal Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) Handbook. This was an effort to start the discussion among several ESN professionals about what the ultimate handbook for our profession might include, and then to proceed to creating just such a handbook. We had a lot of participation and shared ideas which have been captured in the archive of the chat. Just prior to the chat, I explained my thoughts in this blog post regarding the need.

It took me longer than I hoped to gather the thoughts shared by everyone into some coherent format, but I want to present here the collective thoughts of those who took part in the February 13 chat along with an overall structure for the handbook that makes sense to me. The next step is for those interested to look over this info and fill in gaps with additional topics to cover, perhaps suggest consolidation of a few subjects, and begin to fine tune the structure and contents of each section of the book, including specific chapter/article titles and potential authors.

What follows, therefore, isn’t nearly complete by any means. It’s merely the organization of the earlier thoughts into some order, acknowledging that there is a lot of cleanup and gap filling to do before we have a worthy final outline to build on. But we have to start somewhere, and this is a good start, I believe.

Given the breadth of possible contents for this book, I like the idea of organizing it into sections that address the what, why, where, who, when and how and enterprise social networking. Those questions are intentionally arranged in that order to explain first what enterprise social networking is, why it’s important, where it can be useful, who must be involved to make it work, advice regarding possible timelines or phases of implementation, and a host of how-to subjects that provide meat for the reader and practitioner.

The working title is ESN Handbook: The What, Why, Where, Who, When and How of Enterprise Social Networking

What follows next are the 6 major sections with possible topics (so far) for each section.


  • This is NOT Facebook for the Enterprise (Naomi Moneypenny’s article)
  • A top-down and bottom-up approach to getting your answers/info to do your job better/quicker
  • A different way to communicate – networked/pull vs. controlled/push communications
  • A globally connected workforce
  • ESN’s place in the communication toolbox (with email, IM, etc.)


  • Answering the “What’s in it for me?” question for users
  • Why you should care about enterprise social
  • Business cases for different job functions, e.g. project managers, sales, R&D
  • Use cases on getting work done efficiently in business language and context
  • Supporting business objectives through clear goals and strategy
  • The value of networks inside and outside the org structure
  • Being a Responsive Organization
  • Improving work processes


  • Each org is unique
  • Applicable for any size business
  • Not just for IT (or HR or…)


  • Stakeholder Identification and working with all departments involved
  • Defining Roles
  • Getting executive buy-in and participation
  • The psychology and sociology of communities
  • Working with and addressing concerns of legal, risk, and security teams
  • For all generations – not just millennials
  • Your extended enterprise: customers/suppliers/partners
  • Community managers


  • ESN timeline: planning, evaluating platforms, getting buy-in, launching, managing, maturing
  • Don’t wait for everyone to get on board
  • Start quickly


  • How to Get Started
  • Start small
  • Don’t call it a “pilot”; plan for “phases”
  • The feedback loop between corporate culture and the ESN
  • The importance of participating freely and frequently
  • Leveraging small successes to create bigger ones
  • Treating everyone as adults
  • Creating governance policy
  • Lessons learned the hard way – what not to do and why
  • Focus on best principles rather than best practices
  • Be agile, always probing, never married to inflexible time or approach
  • Promoting experimentation to discover new uses
  • Troubleshooting common business (impact on productivity) and user (firehose of info) concerns
  • Reporting; Ways of measuring success
  • Expect the platform to change
  • Corporate culture and trust
  • Content moderation
  • Growing adoption
  • Change management



  • Don’t be overly negative, focusing on “don’ts”
  • Don’t focus too much on tools subject to change
  • Avoid legalese
  • Don’t focus on future possibilities; focus on current realities
  • Keep it simple
  • Don’t promise this will reduce email; overall messages might increase
  • Don’t focus only on technology; Launching/adopting an #ESN is about change management, legal, HR, human behavior, communications; approach must be holistic
  • Be vendor neutral
  • Keep chapters short


  • @russn, @CarrieYoung, @GuyKawasaki, @Nmoneypenny, @oscarberg a Digital Strategist & Business Analyst-Enterprise Collaboration from @avegagroup;
  • about Responsive Organization: @yammeradam or @matthewpartovi
  • @espnguyen – @sdeanswann, @mattpartovi, @alanlepo, @yammeradam, @stevehopkins  @rickardhansson CEO @incetivecorp How to get started, get to phase on
  • @carrieyoung – If a play book is written, I’m in! My chapter: the dirty little secrets that will make your ESN successful
  • @joeloleson – Love to write, but yes @nmoneypenny is over the top great ESN writer
  • @adamjsr – I’d like to see a chapter from my former colleague Luis Suarez @elsua, well-known for shunning email years ago
  • Would be interested in engaging @hjarche on the subject of personal knowledge management, learning in social networks
  • @StanGarfield on knowledge management
  • @akberry, @ullabres, @kzrtech, @hohertz3, @ashleygross, @chriscatania, @curtisaconley
  • Another great mind is @alexkass on social collaboration (background in human-computer interaction).
  • Guy Alvarez – @guylaw1313
  • Chris Slemp – @cslemp, toolbox discussion, scenarios, what not to do
  • Eric Herberholz – @erich13
  • Jennifer Honig – @jhonig1
  • Nick Inglis – @nickinglis
  • Trey Mayer – @TreyPoint: use cases & integrating into LOB systems
  • Vanessa DiMauro – @vdimauro
  • Jeff Willinger – @jwillie

So where do we go from here? I need all interested parties to really consider all of the above and make suggestions for improvement in the outline before any writing begins. What additional topics should be covered? Who are some additional professionals in the field who may be able and willing to make a writing contribution to the project? What additional resources should be referenced? Are there additional sections needed beyond the basic structure of what, why, where, who, when and how?

Either add your comments here, email me at, or tweet me @JeffKRoss. Thanks in advance for your thoughts as we advance this collaborative writing project for the advancement of enterprise social networking.

BlankBookMost 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.

ESNchatWhat a whirlwind of a week! The last several days have been among the most hectic, exhausting and exciting days I have had in a long time. Besides the normal activities that contributed to this nearly 70-hour work week, there were two lengthy evening software upgrades to the test and production environments of our enterprise social network (ESN) at work. I was asked on Thursday to be the featured guest Friday in a video and Twitter chat on the subject of ESNs. That started a scramble to make sure I had the right hardware and an acceptable location from which to participate in the video, as well as spending time thinking through the questions we’d discuss. But the kicker for the week was the first ever #ESNchat held on Thursday, September 12.

#ESNchat is a weekly Twitter chat I started for people like me who work with their company’s internal or enterprise social network. While there are other excellent chats, organizations and resources for those of us doing online community management (and I take part in several), most of them tend to focus more on external communities which companies establish for customers (such as those on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, other public and private communities) rather than internal ones made up solely of the employees of one company. I did my homework to make sure I wasn’t duplicating something already in existence, and when it became apparent a couple of months ago that there was a gap to fill, I started putting things in place to start #ESNchat. I could not possibly be happier with the kickoff week for it.

I am thankful to all who participated in the inaugural chat on Thursday. I loved the number of participants, their eagerness to take part in the discussion, the broad cross-section of businesses represented, the wisdom shared in response to the questions, and the further discussion spawned by those comments. One of the participants, Carrie Young, expanded on one of her popular ideas she expressed in the chat with a brilliant blog post the next day called “You Might Die Today from a Lethal Spider Bite, and Other Pressing Enterprise Concerns.” I look forward to Carrie being our featured guest on #ESNchat Sept. 26.

If you’d like to see the archive of that discussion, you’ll find a link to it on the archives page. Also check out the schedule of future chats. There is a link at the top of this blog to more info about it.

My thanks also to Tim McDonald, Director of Community at Huffington Post. Tim is also the founder of the weekly #cmgrhangout video and Twitter chat. He saw the info about #ESNchat on Thursday and invited me to be the guest on Friday’s #cmgrhangout to discuss ESNs. You’ll find that video and tweet archive here.

As I think back on the craziness of the past few days, a few thoughts come to mind that make the hectic pace, lack of sleep and food, running around and losing a couple of pounds (temporarily) worthwhile:

  • There is great satisfaction in identifying a need in a profession and taking the initiative to try to do something about it. Hosting a Twitter chat isn’t a matter of showing up a few minutes beforehand one day and tweeting a few questions spaced over the hour, hoping people will show up and participate. There was research to be done to hone in on a worthwhile topic and need that is not currently being met. There was effort in deciding on a name, reserving domain names and Twitter handles, researching which supporting tools felt like the best fit for managing the chat experience, setting up info online about the chat, talking with fellow ESN community managers and others about the idea, determining a topic schedule, detailing the questions and planned tweets down to the minute for the first chat, promoting the chat through various channels, establishing new relationships with like-minded people from other organizations to help gather a small but solid crew of initial participants who promised to be there to help get it started, spending hours afterward following up with people, archiving in a friendly manner the contents of the chat, plus more that I’m probably forgetting to mention. It is no small commitment to stay with this indefinitely into the future, but I know it will be worth it for me and for others because of the knowledge shared and relationships established.
  • None of us is smarter than all of us. It is worth the effort to cross organizational and additional barriers to connect with other professionals to share ideas, questions, insights, issues and solutions. That’s why professional organizations and communities of practice exist. That why it’s awesome when employees of competing companies can come together in a Twitter chat like #ESNchat and share ideas (without divulging any corporate secrets) to learn from one another and advance the field.
  • We always need to be thinking about next practices, not just best practices. This blog is named “Next Practices” because I want to always be pondering questions like, “Where do we need to be several years down the road?”; “What can I do today to help shape the future into what I believe it can be (whether anyone else believes it or not)?”; “What is the best solution to problems we face, regardless of perceived constraints, and how can I then eliminate those constraints one by one in order to pursue that best solution, not settling for second best?” Best practices are good to know and may help you and your company mature in many ways, but best practices from yesterday aren’t necessarily what is needed for tomorrow, next year and further down the road. What we need are next practices. It is my hope that #ESNchat helps spark creativity and excitement related to enterprise social networks in such a way that it spawns some next practices.

To all who had a hand in the beginning of #ESNchat, thank you! I hope to see many of you each Thursday on Twitter from 2-3pm Eastern.