Originally published April 8, 2015

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I was asked how an enterprise social network (ESN) can be successfully integrated into internal messaging to make leadership communications more valuable.

An ESN can be used effectively to improve internal messaging. Here are three ways:

  1. Switch from push to pull. Allow people to choose which ESN groups to join and how they wish to be notified of new communications, rather than sending out email messages to large distribution lists, most of which are ignored.
  2. Enable two-way communications, soliciting feedback, questions, and suggestions for each communication. An ESN is ideal for this. Demonstrate transparency by communicating more frequently and openly.
  3. Have leaders demonstrate the desired behaviors for communicating and collaborating. They can post, reply, like, and praise in an ESN, which will encourage others to follow their example. And they can take action on feedback and suggestions which are submitted, thus showing responsiveness.

In Why No One Uses the Corporate Social Network, Charlene Li, Altimeter Group CEO, wrote:

Leaders know they should engage with employees, especially via digital and social channels. But they don’t, and they offer a string of common excuses such as “I don’t have enough time” or “Nobody cares what I had for lunch.” More than anything else, they fear that engaging will close the power distance between them and their employees, thereby lessening their ability to command and control.

Altimeter Group’s research and my experience show that leadership participation is crucial for collaboration. So rather than issue formal communications through conventional channels, leaders should use an ESN to lead by example. They should ask everyone to use it — to share, ask, find, answer, recognize, inform, and suggest — instead of email. They should regularly use it themselves, and show the way for members of the organization to do the same.

Leaders should avoid ghost writing, corporate-speak, and posts which sound like press releases. Instead, they should use their own authentic voices, ask and answer questions, share what they are doing and thinking, and look for opportunities to praise and like the posts of those using the ESN effectively. Leaders need to make time for doing this regularly — at least once a week, even if it is just for ten minutes.

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

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