What Is Enterprise Social Networking?

Enterprise social networking is a business practice that takes elements of online social networking communities and applies them to strictly corporate settings. These programs are almost exclusively web-based and are designed to help keep employees, managers, and colleagues in constant and instantaneous communication with each other. The companies that have adopted enterprise social networking communication platforms nearly always support e-mail exchanges, though networked communication is in many ways designed to replace the need for e-mail over the long-term.

Social networking technology developed in the mid-2000s as a way for individuals to keep in touch with each other, share updates, and track information. Membership numbers of the world’s major networking sites have exploded across North America, Europe, and most of Asia, making these sites some of the most visited and most tracked world-wide. The idea behind enterprise social networking is to bring the popularity and ease of use of those sites into the corporate sphere.

Most enterprise social networks are internal software programs that can only be accessed by authorized employees. These employees create accounts, develop profiles, and post updates, much as they would on more personalized social networking sites. Different business projects and resources may also have pages that employees can join, “like,” or follow.

The idea behind most enterprise social software is to harness the energy and momentum of web-sharing sites to advance and grow business. Interactive network participation forces employees to actively engage with material and each other. This can promote more honest communication and can facilitate better and quicker information accessibility.

Accessibility and real-time information updates across a spectrum of users are two of the major goals behind enterprise social networking. Most programs allow employees to log in to post updates, see profile changes, and track colleagues’ actions any time, from any Internet connection. Networks are often optimized to work on mobile phones as well as well as laptop, desktop, or tablet computers.

Many business executives believe that employees will gain a better understanding of project dimensions, time lines, and key players when they are connected to them in real time with photos and streaming updates. Connected employees may be more involved in the corporate process over a network than they would be by e-mail, or through in-person meetings. Such is the hope of social software entrepreneurs.

There are a number of enterprise social networking service options. Most companies that are looking to add elements of the interactive web to their business process usually start small, often introducing only instant messaging services or conversation feeds at first. As employees grow accustomed to the new ways of information sharing, profile pages, fan groups, and collaboration sharing sites can be added over time.