Why no one cares about your internal social network

I love a bit of social media.  No surprise there then to any regular reader of my blog.

Only when it comes to internal social media networks, Yammer and the like, many of them end up being underused.  Unfulfilled potential.

Sometimes this is acknowledged.  Sometimes not.  See this great slide share from Paul Taylor detailing the signs that you are not a social business.

Like with any people stuff, there are some great examples of organisations that have made their internal social networks really deliver.  But many places are not even close.

Why? There are lots of reasons.  And many of them aren’t specific to social networks either.

Sometimes it is about employee’s engagement with the broader organisation. Or lack thereof.

Sometimes it is about a lack of digital and social skills generally.

Sometimes it is about having the time to engage in anything other than the immediate task at hand.

When it comes to the social network itself…..

Sometimes it is about employees not having a clue what the heck it is for or what they are supposed to do with it.

Sometimes it is about practically not knowing how to use a social network.

Sometimes it is about the network being seen to be Somebody Else’s Problem.  HR or Internal Comms being top of the list of suspects.

Sometimes it is about line managers not letting people use them because they think it’s not proper work. Whatever that is.

Sometimes it is that the organisation hasn’t launched it properly, given people a reason to go there, given it a focus or purpose – or perhaps even more importantly, it hasn’t given people the right sort of permission.

It isn’t unusual in my experience to find that social networks have a small cohort of regular users, sharers and commentators.  And then the rest of the organisation is either all so-what or oblivious to its existence.

Get it right, and social media networks can be game changing.  They can open your organisation right up, getting over the age-old complaints about communication and silo working and not knowing what is going on around here and never seeing any of the leaders. It can be a real driver of change.  Of transparency.  Of innovation.

But otherwise, it is just something else on the to-do list, something else for people to complain about, something else that there has to be a policy for.

Employees won’t care about your internal social media network unless you give them a reason to care. And even then, they still might not.  Of course, a social media network does not stand alone within an organisation, it is part of the system.  Often, what occurs (or doesn’t) on an internal social network is representative of what takes place within that wider system.  So going back to that earlier point; if employees aren’t willing to engage on your internal social media platform, if they aren’t willing to share, to communicate, to collaborate, recognise and discuss…. just what does that say about your organisation, its leadership and its culture?


10 myths about internal social media

I know that they are more properly known as an ESN (enterprise social network) but not everyone recognises the jargon.  They might however, recognise some of those things that are often said about using social media networks within organisations, networks like Yammer or Jive.

When I am out and about talking to people about all things social, here are those objections and myths that I hear often about internal social networks, along with my usual response:

It’s not work.

Using an internal social network is all about ‘working out loud’. Sharing what is going on and being worked on. It’s about improved communication and open, real time dialogue. It’s also about overcoming silos and barriers to good internal communication. That is most definitely work. Or it certainly should be. There will probably be a bit of social on there too. But that happens in real life too. Haven’t you ever chatted to colleague over lunch?

I don’t have time.


Everyone, especially leaders, should have time to share information and communicate with the people around them.  Frankly, this is a lazy excuse.  And if used to its fullest, a social network will save you time hunting for information or searching for the right person to talk to.

It’s no different to using email.

Oh yes it is. Email only goes to the people on the ‘to’ list. It is knowledge and information limited to a small list of people. Using a social network means information is open for everyone to see and benefit from. There are some things that email might be more suited for (see next point) but most organisations can share plenty more than they currently do.

It is a confidentiality risk.

There are some things that should be confidential, and this won’t change. Obviously, keep these things away from a social network – this is just basic common sense. But there are probably also plenty of things that aren’t that sensitive and can happily be shared more widely than they usually are. And don’t forget your internal social network is restricted to those with a company email address.

My team will waste time on it.

Some people will find any way to waste time at work, especially if they are disengaged. If they do, then deal with them. But don’t cut off the benefits to those that will use it wisely. Learning more about the company, colleagues, sharing information…. none of these things are a waste of time.

People will misuse it.

They might. See above.

It is difficult to use.

It is true that if technology is too difficult to use, it has a big impact on adoption. But most social platforms are fairly straightforward if you actually want to learn how to use them. Often, this means objection something else entirely. Like I don’t want to.

I’ve got nothing to say.

Lots of people say this when they first get social. But everyone has something worth sharing about their job, something that they are working on, or maybe can contribute to what someone else is doing. Just get out there. You never know what benefits you will find or how you can help someone else.

It doesn’t apply to our business.

Sound the klaxon. I’ve heard this one too many times. Social media applies to every business, whether you like it or not, believe it or not. Your customers are there, your employees are there, your competitors are there. The very basis of an internal social network is about collaboration and conversation. And that applies to every business.

It is only for younger employees.

Really? Sharing knowledge within the workplace and communicating with colleagues is just for a certain age group?  #generationblah.

Internal social networks have the power to fundamentally change how organisations communicate and collaborate.  There are some good examples of companies doing just that, but unfortunately for many it is a potential yet unfulfilled.  But maybe if we overcome these standard objections, we can truly reap the rewards.


If you have heard a different objection, then feel free to add it into the comments!