Originally published February 11, 2016

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Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) are for cross-organizational interaction:

  • Share: beyond personal networks to reach everyone who might benefit
  • Innovate: build on one another’s work to implement improvements
  • Reuse: take advantage of what has already been done
  • Collaborate: work together across boundaries for the common good
  • Crowdsource: get help and resources from people you don’t know
  • Work out loud: trigger serendipitous connections through transparency
  • Learn: information that you were not seeking but is valuable to know

What does an ESN look like when it is working?

  1. There is one (and only one) global network for all people in the organization.
  2. There is one (and only one) group for every subject of importance to the organization, its businesses, and its people, and each one of these groups has 200 or more members.
  3. Everyone belongs to at least one group (including the one most relevant to their work), and possibly other groups.
  4. Group members pay attention to the discussions, either by setting email notifications for the group, checking regularly, or other effective methods.
  5. Whenever a group member sees a question or a request for a resource to which they can respond with assistance, they do so.
  6. All group admins actively monitor their groups to ensure that all questions receive an answer within 24 hours.
  7. When other channels (e.g., email), are used to share, ask, or find, those who receive these messages redirect them to the most relevant communities.
  8. When someone takes the time to share useful information, they receive positive response in the form of likes, replies, and praise.
  9. People post in public groups in the ESN whenever possible, and only use private groups for truly private interactions.
  10. Leaders routinely post, reply, like, and praise in the ESN, and don’t just use it for formal communications or events.

An actual example of a vision and associated actions for a specific organization:

Posting in ESN groups is the preferred way to share information, ask and answer questions, and seek assistance.

The top three actions to help make this vision a reality:

  1. Leaders routinely post, reply, like, and praise in the ESN and don’t just use it for formal communications, events, or jams. We all need to ask our leaders to do this, even if it is just for 10 minutes each week.
  2. All group admins actively monitor their groups to ensure that all questions receive an answer within 24 hours. All group admins need to do this, or the groups for which they are an admin may be merged with other, more responsive groups. If you are a group admin, you can help by doing this. If you are not, you can help by asking group admins for groups important to you to do this.
  3. When channels other than the ESN (e.g., email, phone, instant messaging), are used to share, ask, or find, those who receive these messages redirect them to the most relevant groups. For example, if a help desk receives a question via email, they should reply in the most relevant ESN group, and then send the link back via email. If every support channel, help desk, and call center does this, it will save them having to answer the same questions over and over, and allow many others besides the person submitting the query to benefit. We have asked the knowledge help desk and other groups to do this, and you can help by asking similar groups to do the same.


1. The most effective and efficient way to share, ask, find, answer, recognize, inform, and suggest (SAFARIS).

2. ESN effectiveness (compared to email) for getting answers and resources

  • Time to receive responses: Faster
  • Diversity of responses: More varied and widespread
  • Volume of responses: Greater
  • Probability of success: Closer to 100%

3. 15 Benefits of Knowledge Sharing


  • Don’t be too heavy-handed or you will scare away users; tell them how to use the ESN for their gain, not what is prohibited.
  • Moderate with a light touch: personal, understanding, and private. Explain why you are intervening, don’t embarrass anyone, and offer to help.
  • Keep the ESN team small and focused on what’s important. Resist spending time on bureaucracy or being Big Brother. Help and lead by example.
  • Leaders who want the ESN to grow must use it routinely and regularly, and not rely on edicts, promotions, and one-time live-chat events.
  • Don’t tell everyone to join to start collaborating; tell them specifics of why, how, and when to use the ESN. Use SAFARIS and COLLABORATION to explain recommended use cases.
  • There are not huge differences between ESN vendors; for products under consideration, look at the number of existing users, how the product integrates with other tools already in use, what current users have to say, and how they meet ESN requirements.

Also see:

  1. How to govern enterprise social network groups
  2. Analyze this: Useful ESN analytics
  3. Enterprise Social Network Tradeoffs
  4. Enterprise Social Network (ESN) Vendor Requirements
  5. 8 reasons for working out loud and narrating your work
  6. How leaders can improve internal communications using an ESN
  7. What are you supposed to do in a community?
  8. In praise of praising your colleagues
  9. 5 Reasons for Starting a KM or ESN Program
  10. Tips for starting a KM or ESN program

What additional thoughts do you have on vision, benefits, and principles for ESNs

Written by

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

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