Is Bridging the Enterprise–Consumer Social Networking Divide a Bridge too Far?

Enterprise Consumer Divide Blog

On the surface Facebook@work looks a lot like consumer Facebook. We have news feeds, groups, shared social media, discussions, hashtags and the like. Familiarity with the interface is one of the strong selling points for Facebook, but since its soft launch in 2015, it’s hardly set the world on fire.

The big Enterprise-Consumer bridge news this month is Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn. Unlike Facebook, Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn is being positioned as a ‘bet on both sides’, rather than a bridging, since Microsoft already has Yammer, which is being integrated into their O365 suite. No such future is being suggested for LinkedIn.

Before these two developments the worlds of consumer and Enterprise Social Networking software were clearly delineated, despite relatively subtle differences in functionality. The Enterprise Social Networking market was consolidating behind traditional Enterprise players, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle and Salesforce, when Facebook for Work became the first to look to bridge the Consumer-divide. Shortly after the Facebook for Work launch Gaurav Jain (@gjain) was quick to write an article on Techcrunch to suggest the context change would likely prove a bridge too far. Gaurav was speaking with some experience, having been on the founding team of the failed Google+ Enterprise initiative, so it is worth exploring Gaurav’s comments in more detail:

  • Conflicting ‘DNAs’ were identified, suggesting Enterprises are driven by wanting more customized / competitive software;
  • Enterprises prefer ‘managed’, rather than ‘free flowing’ collaboration;
  • Out-dated governance policies that significantly lag the current digital state of the art. For example, security policies that are pre-cloud; individual service level agreements that are pre-software consumerisation etc.;
  • Enterprise software tends to mimic the top down organisational hierarchy, with executive engagement a key selling tactic. Consumer software works from the individual upward;
  • Enterprise software regularly requires integration with other Enterprise applications, many being legacy software solutions. The consumer software world regularly leads the way in their use of the most modern tools, unimpeded by legacy integration issues.

Gaurav’s closing comments are compelling. The onus shouldn’t be on new Enterprise software aspirants having to ‘race to the bottom’ to meet outdated Enterprise software management practices. A positive effect of the increasing dialogue around digital disruptions is that it is forcing Enterprises to look closely at new digitally enhanced business models.

In the context of Enterprise Social Networking (ESN), we have seen a number of successful ‘bottom up’ sales strategies, with Yammer being the first, where entry into the Enterprise was gained through applying the freemium model to Enterprise staffs. This has been quickly followed up by team collaboration software Slack and Atlassian’s HipChat, who are at least drawing ‘cherry picking’ revenue streams from individual or small team sales. But make no mistake, Slack and HipChat and the like will need Enterprise level sales to thrive. This is when the Consumer-Enterprise divide challenges articulated by Gaurav will start to kick in. We have already seen the Yammer experience, where organisations have often had thousands of staff using the software productively for many years prior to formally procuring the software. Astoundingly, the procurement processes trigger the Enterprise governance machinery that begins to surface risks and barriers that had freely been ignored up to that point. In our interview with CEO David Thodey, we found that even the CEO is not spared!

Methods and GoalsAs challenging as these identified barriers are, we believe there is a far more fundamental mismatch between the objectives of Consumer and Enterprise Social Networking. In our recent blog post on the dangers of relying on activity measures, we identified that the key objectives of Enterprises installing an ESN is to improve collaboration, build relationships and empower independent initiative. Consumer Social Networking is centrally about facilitating engagement around content.  This is why it’s also called social media. For Twitter it’s about breaking news. For Facebook it’s about friends sharing content. For Linkedin it’s about sharing business content and professional profiles. The analytics supporting consumer social networking care more about activities; how many views, clicks, reads etc.. When consumer social media/networking talk of personas, they are talking about characterizing the buying behaviours of marketing prospects. In the Enterprise, we are more interested in personas that describe constructive collaboration behaviours. Mature analytics engines like Google Analytics do not attempt to seriously measure the things that ESNs are acquired for.

As consumer social networking started to move into the Enterprise, Corporate Communications, who traditionally have external and internal communications staff co-existing, facilitated it. It is therefore understandable that the social media focus migrated with it. The problem arises when Enterprise staffs are quick to identify that they are becoming a marketing target for their managers and executive, potentially creating a divide that actively works against what the Enterprise is actually looking for. It needs to become more about the conversation than the message alone, something that can be confronting for journalism trained communications specialists. We talked about this in our ‘Talk or Tell’ blog post.

We think that successfully bridging the Enterprise-Consumer Social Networking divide still has some time to run. The early Enterprise winners are likely to come from those currently challenged by a real digital disruption prospect, and forced by circumstance, to move more rapidly away from legacy Enterprise software governance policies. For others, perhaps simply aligning their social analytics with their corporate objectives for collaboration, relationship building and empowerment, is an achievable starting point.

SWOOP is a leading online social network analytics tool aimed at increasing organisational collaborative performance. SWOOP analyses collaboration patterns on enterprise social platforms and provides insights to every single user, community managers and executives.Contact us today for a free 2-week trial and benchmark report.

Does your Community have a Key Player Risk?

Key Player Blog

SWOOP: Key Player Index

An important characteristic of networks is that some individuals are more important to the performance of the network than others. In fact, if we were to plot the relative influence of individuals in a network, the degradation from the most influential to the least follows a power law distribution. This means that the level of influence between the most influential members and the least influential reduces exponentially; emphasizing the importance of these few selected influencers in a network. Networks that have just a few key influencers are clearly at risk if one or more of them were to leave the network. So how can we tell how open your community is to a key player risk?

This post continues the series of deeper dives into the specific measures included in the SWOOP Collaboration Framework #swoopframework. We have previously addressed individual behavioural personas and the important social cohesion measure.

How is this Measured?

The key player index is a measure of the degree to which a network is reliant on a ‘selected few’. To compare networks we measure the proportion of members that are responsible for 50% of all connections. The higher the proportion, the higher the key player index is and the lower the key player risk is. The range of scores from our 20+ benchmarking sample is between 4% and 12% for online communities, with a mean score of 6.4.


What we have ascertained from our online networking studies is that online communities are much more susceptible to key player risk than off-line communities/networks. This may potentially be attributed to an existing ‘digital divide’, where by only a proportion of community members choose to be active online. Alternatively, it could simply be the online medium makes it easy to attract a larger, only marginally active, membership. That said, we think that the relative scores are still a good indication of key player risk.

What should this mean to you?

If your community/network has a low key player index, meaning a high key player risk, it is important to start to address this by encouraging more members to act as hubs in the network, by actively connecting others. If you notice that selected individuals are doing all the ‘work’ in keeping the community active and vibrant, start trying to lend a hand. If you are one the ‘selected few’ key players, try and encourage others to join you and become more active in connecting others. Perhaps ask others to host online events or initiatives as a way of broadening the community leadership responsibilities and increasing the visibility of others.

In summary, a strong, sustainable community has built in redundancy, so that it can remain active, vibrant and productive, even if some the key players were to leave or be absent for an extended period. By ensuring that your community has many hubs and/or alternative sources for brokering and connecting the community, the longevity of your community will be more assured.



Rely on Activity Measures from your Enterprise Social Network at your Peril

Activity Measures SWOOP Blog

For most people “Social Analytics” means understanding consumer online behaviours. For businesses it is about understanding how best to take advantage of the social networking channels of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and the like, to enhance your brand perception. Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) have essentially evolved from public social networks, with the activity based metrics migrating as well, with little thought to their effectiveness. Activity measures are typically available “out of the box” with ESNs. This is a BIG problem though! It doesn’t take too much research to find out that the Enterprise objectives for ESNs and those for external brand building are substantially different.

We are not the first to send this alert. In 2013 Carrie Basham Young, a former member of the Socialcast team, wrote an article entitled “The Enterprise Social Networking Data Party is Over” , identifying many of the common misuses. What we do now have to reinforce this message is quantitative evidence, gained from our extensive Yammer benchmarking initiative.

Before we go there let’s first review the commonly stated objectives for ESN’s. All the major management research firms have conducted their surveys of executives and come to similar conclusions. From McKinsey: “According to executives, the social tools that enable employee collaboration—through real-time, group-based interactions that can be accessed across platforms—are most valuable.” From HBR: “The bottom line: the most important impact of social media technologies comes from who — and what — they empower, not just the information they exchange…not just the “better communications” business?” From IDC: “The critical point of success is ultimately how well relationships with customers, partners and suppliers are managed and maintained”. Collaboration, Empowerment, Relationships; nothing about brand messages, social media views, likes, follows or other common activity measures associated with consumer social media. Little wonder this mismatch in objectives is becoming problematic.

Now we do hear community managers often talk about usage statistics and the need to demonstrate growth in the use of the ESN platform, in order to justify the investment. And this is a valid use of such measures for early stage adopters, when the primary concern is usage, rather than value. It doesn’t take long however, to outgrow this need, in favour of the more important question of value achieved.

Now to the evidence we have generated to support our argument for smarter enterprise social analytics. Over the past 6 months or so we have been able to study the Microsoft Yammer collaboration patterns of over 135,000 individuals across more than 20 enterprises around the world. In our last blog post on social cohesion across enterprises, we reported that this measure was the one that demonstrated the greatest variance in performance across our full sample of companies.  In essence, we measure social cohesion as the number of reciprocated interactions experienced by individuals, which are then aggregated to group, business unit and/or Enterprise levels.

Following on from this we took a deeper dive into a single enterprise to explore the social cohesion amongst the Yammer Groups. Of the 132 most active groups we found the same pattern of high variability in social cohesion between groups. However, when we overlaid the traditional activity measures like number of posts, number of replies, number of likes, it became obvious that there was no association between these activity measures and social cohesion within the groups. Additionally, we were able to gain qualitative feedback from the community managers that the social cohesion scores mapped well to their own perceptions of how the groups were performing.

Activity vs Cohesion

In this chart, the groups are sorted by their social cohesion score. We can see from the graph that the total activity measure (the sum of all activity measures i.e. posts, replies, likes, mentions, notifications) has no association with cohesion. In fact, there is even a slight negative correlation. When we added an accepted measure of value, the response rate to posts, it’s the same story. In essence, if you are relying on activity measures to guide your collaboration and relationship building efforts, then you might as well not bother. In fact, it’s possible that you will do more damage than good.

Perhaps the most worrying part is that the ESN vendors commonly promote these activity measures as “measures of engagement”. Well perhaps this is the case if “engagement with the platform” is more important to you than “engagement with each other”.









SWOOP is a leading online social network analytics tool aimed at increasing organisational collaborative performance. SWOOP analyses collaboration patterns on enterprise social platforms and provides insights to every single user, community managers and executives. Contact us today for a free 2-week trial and benchmark report.

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How Cohesive is your Community?

Cohesive community

SWOOP: Mean 2-Way Connections

Social cohesion is synonymous with ‘community’. Intuitively we experience social cohesion when we participate in high performing communities. Experienced ‘networkers’ lead these communities. New members are made to feel welcome. Community objectives are met through active engagement between members. High performing online communities are a fertile field for knowledge sharing amongst its members. While qualitatively we can experience and differentiate a good community from a poor one, what measures are available to assist leaders in monitoring social cohesion in their communities? How can these measures be used to help grow social cohesion?

This post continues the series of deeper dives into the specific measures included in the SWOOP Collaboration Framework #swoopframework. We have previously addressed individual behavioural personas. The Mean 2-way Connections measure is community wide, and our measure for social cohesion.

How is this Measured?

The Mean 2-Way Connections measure calculates the average number of reciprocated connections each community member has.  An example of a reciprocated connection created is if say, you reply to a post by person A and then person A replies to a post of yours. A community rich with members having a high number of two-way connections is going to be a highly cohesive one. On the other hand, a community with a low Mean 2-Way Connections score will have created few sustainable relationships between its members and therefore much less cohesion.


The Mean 2-Way Connections is our measure of social cohesion. For the majority of communities, the higher this score, the better. A high score means that it is highly likely that strong relationships are being developed amongst the membership. We know that strong relationships underpin trust, and with trust we get speed and tangible results, as Stephen Covey elegantly represents in his book ‘The Speed of Trust’. Where we have been able to compare online communities/groups within the same enterprise on this measure, we have found qualitative reinforcement that the more cohesive a community is, the more value that it is creating for its members and the enterprise.

Importantly, the social cohesion measure was the result with the greatest spread from best to worst in our benchmarking studies. The following chart shows the relative spread of results amongst a selected set of 21 enterprises:

Standard Deviation.png

In essence this chart indicates the Mean 2-Way Connections (social cohesion) is the measure that most differentiates good from poor performance. It is also therefore the dimension that offers the most potential for improvement.

There is however an upper limit for social cohesion within a community. This point is where a community reaches, what we commonly call ‘group think’. In these circumstances, highly cohesive communities become immune to ideas from outside the community. Innovation stagnates, and while the community may still be successful, it will find it increasingly hard to deliver further improvements, without introducing more diversity within its membership.

What should this mean to you?

As an individual, one should always be looking to maximize the number of reciprocated relationships one has. Having a high number of 2-way relationship connections should result in your being seen as an ‘Engager’, the most productive behavioural persona. Recall that Engagers are able to effectively manage their ‘give-receive’ balance. They become the glue that binds a community.

As a community leader, a high average 2-way relationship score means that your members are actively engaged in community activities and delivering value for the community and its sponsors. On the other hand, a low score indicates poor social cohesion and therefore much work to do. To build up social cohesion in your community, you need to start with identifying a few important tasks that selected groups of members can actively work and collaborate on. Traction is gained around these activities and value stories are shared amongst the broader community. You will see the 2-Way Relationships score grow, as the membership becomes more engaged in its activities.

In summary, social cohesion and its specific measure of Mean 2–Way Connections is seen as, arguably, the clearest measure of a successful community.  Social cohesion is synonymous with community. Our benchmarking studies have shown that it is also the measure that most differentiates excellent from poor community performance. For those communities exhibiting poor social cohesion, the task is to develop activities that encourage members to reciprocate. There is however price for too much cohesion; and that is a lack of diversity and innovation, which could lead to eventual stagnation, if not managed properly.