Enterprise Social Network (ESN) groups: Can there be too many, and should they be public or private?

  1. Reaching critical mass (hundreds, preferably thousands, of members) for any group is the best way to keep a group active and continue to attract more members.
  2. Online communities work best when they cross geographic and organizational boundaries to facilitate virtual, asynchronous collaboration. Local communities work best when they meet in person, perform local actions, or participate in physical activities.
  3. Keeping things simple is best for both those leading the groups and those joining the groups. If there is just one group to join, that makes it easier for leaders to recommend it, and for potential members to figure out which group to join and post in.
  • Make a private group public — do this with the consent of the group admin if they group’s subject is of general interest and the discussions don’t actually need to be private
  • Make a public group private — do this if a public group is discussing things that should be private, e.g., client-specific, confidential, sensitive, etc.
  • Identify with it: view themselves as specializing in it
  • Be deeply interested in it, view it as relevant to their work, and want to deepen their understanding of it
  • Be willing to spend time learning and collaborating about it
  1. Community of Practice: work-related communities, open to anyone who specializes in or who wants to learn more about the subject; tend to be larger and public; tend to be based on a topic, role, or industry (e.g., Social Media)
  2. Organization: mostly top-down communications targeted at everyone in a formal organization; enable few-to-many communication; mostly public, but may serve as a cordoned-off area for people who work together (without outsiders) to make people comfortable; tend to be larger; (e.g., Human Resources)
  3. Location: used for people in a specific location or to provide information specific to a location; tend to be public, which allows visitors to a location to access information; (e.g., Chicago Office, Canada, EMEA)
  4. Language: used for discussions in a specific language; may be public or private, and large or small; (e.g., Portuguese Speakers in Brazil and Portugal, French Speakers in Canada, Spanish Speakers in the US)
  5. Event: used for sharing information related to a specific event; may be public or private, and large or small; examples include new hires who start on a specific date, tributes to late colleagues, photos from a community service day, and posts before/during/after a meeting (e.g., August 1, 2015 New Hires, Tribute to John Doe, Impact Day, Annual Worldwide Meeting)
  6. Community of Interest: non-work-related communities, open to anyone who is interested; tend to be larger and public; (e.g., Running, Photography, Music, Cooking)
  7. Team: collaboration within a project team, work unit, task force, or committee; limited to those people who are assigned to the team; usually small and private, for trusted colleagues only; (e.g., Project Cleanup, Finance Team, Merger Task Force, Holiday Party Committee)
  8. Support: get help or make requests to a specific set of people; enable many-to-few communications; tend to be public; provide archives, deliver transparency, and replace or augment other channels such as email, phone, instant messaging, or text; examples include call centers, help desks, specialized support, and transaction entry (e.g., Knowledge Brokers, IT Help Desk, Business Research Center, Book Orders)



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Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/