“Digital Channels” or Work Tools?

At my last job, when I started introducing the comms team to our new enterprise social network (ESN), I asked a simple question:

Is our enterprise social network a “digital channel” or a work tool?

Most comms teams I speak to see it as a the former. It’s a shame because it greatly limits what an ESN can enable an organization to achieve. It’s also surprising because ESNs are no longer new, disruptive tech tools – in fact, like Workplace by Facebook and Yammer, they are quite mature.

An ESN is a tool to get work done. To get work done, employees need to interact; they need to talk to each other. Two-way interaction is the key driver of value in an ESN, as it generally is offline in an organization.

A comms channel always means a focus on marketing-like stats – content views, clicks, likes, shares. There is little value in this one-way view, aside from the always-nebulous idea of “people now know about this” (to which I always ask: “how do you know?”).

Of course, content can be about the work – especially wider strategic initiatives and org change.

But there is a key difference between:

“Wow, a lot of people viewed this content”


“Wow, a lot of people talked to each other about this content”

Comms teams need to move from “it’s been seen” as a sign of value, to “did this drive valuable discussion?”

Think content-agnostic. Think conversation as key. Where is working through the ESN driving value?

The deeper thought here is also that key internal partnerships also drive ESN value. IT (OCM), Comms, HR and others should be working together far more closely to ensure one team’s perspective doesn’t dominate “what is the ESN for?”