What 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.