What Is Enterprise Social Networking?

An enterprise social network (ESN) is basically an internal, private social network, which companies often implement in an attempt to enable faster, more fluid communication and networking among employees. Growing out of the social networking revolution of the early 2000s, enterprise social networks filled a need in the corporate world for easier connection and communication — much as Facebook and Twitter did in our personal lives.

ESNs’ rise in popularity was part of larger consumerization of IT tools, making enterprise software easier to use and more engaging — similar to everyday consumer apps. Proponents of enterprise social networking hoped it would break down silos and enable faster collaboration. But the results have been disappointing. After early enthusiasm propelled by “freemium” products like Yammer, ESN usage plateaued and then fell off. Many companies simply abandoned their enterprise social networks, while others have relegated them to non-essential status, used mostly for casual social connection, not business-critical functions.

The Problem With Enterprise Social Networking

Enterprise social networking using applications like Yammer facilitates spontaneous, unstructured conversations, which are great for moment-to-moment exchanges but cause a lot of confusion and disorder in the long run. ESNs are typically implemented as an overlay on top of existing apps: they add a layer of conversation that’s separate from the interactions, activities and content generated in other systems.

The outcome, all too often, is yet another channel to keep track of and yet another silo where information can hide. As communication streams multiply, they become harder to follow. People spend more and more time just trying to connect the dots between messages, documents and colleagues. Info gets more difficult to find, and vital knowledge gets buried and lost.

With multiple overlapping Microsoft products, such as Yammer, MS Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive, it’s tough to even know where to begin a conversation around a document. Do you post it in Yammer, where it’s easy to share, or maybe put it in SharePoint because you need better version control? And what if one of the departments you need to work with uses MS Teams instead? Even Microsoft struggles to choose among apps and get the most out of the Office 365 suite.

At the end of the day, enterprise social networks are great for talking about work, but more often than not fail when it comes to getting work done.

How Enterprise Collaboration Hubs Outperform Enterprise Social Networks

An enterprise collaboration software isn’t an overlay – it’s a hub that brings conversation, content, projects and teams together in one place, providing critical context and organization. And a best-in-breed collaboration hub integrates with other essential systems, such as Office 365, SharePoint and Google G-Suite – pulling content, conversations and information from these systems into shared collaborative spaces where everyone can see, discuss and act on them.

Collaboration hubs simplify search as well. Instead of having to separately search multiple apps and systems, users can find content and information regardless of where it’s stored — with a single query. the hub itself.

The best collaboration hubs should also provide highly personalized experiences – delivering relevant news, highlighting people and places of interest and suggesting useful content based on users’ individual preferences and needs.

An enterprise collaboration hub can also incorporate the social features of an enterprise social network — helping people connect and interact flexibly and quickly. But unlike an enterprise social network, the hub centralizes and contextualizes everything, so it’s not an infinitely growing set of isolated conversations. Even external collaborators can be included, making it easier than ever to work with contractors and other partners.

Collaboration hubs also offer big advantages in analytical capabilities. While other systems (including ESNs) are limited to analyzing only the activity that takes place within those apps, hubs are able to aggregate usage and activity data from many systems. They can compile a 360-degree view of relationships and interactions occurring across the enterprise, and apply sophisticated analytics to help business leaders better understand employee behavior, sentiment, work patterns and more – the kind of understanding needed to drive employee engagement, improve collaboration and enhance company performance. In other words, enterprise hubs fuel not only a new level of productivity, but a new level of insight as well.

Want to learn more about the differences between enterprise social networks and enterprise collaboration hubs? Download our whitepaper.

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