Is CultureSphere the Internal Social Platform We’ve Been Waiting For?

Throughout our research into understanding what is holding back social networking as a business tool, Joab and I keep coming back to the same issue: platforms. In all of Joab’s time in technology and all of my time in PR, we have yet to find an internal social platform that anybody really wants to use.

So it is with high hopes that we are watching the impending roll-out of CultureSphere, which its developers tout as “the world’s first social sharing platform for employee-inspired media.”

My initial reaction to the product pitch is mixed. One part of me is intrigued, and the other part of me has just watched its B***shit Detector go into overdrive. A recent puff piece in Forbes gushes:

Imagine a social media experience that is open only to employees. Employees can post comments, pictures, videos, really anything. Employees from the CEO on down can also see everyone’s comments, respond, “like” comments, and share them all in realtime.

Yes, just imagine that. Wow. Imagine that just like the people at Yammer, Cisco, and have done. Attention Will Burns and Forbes Editors: the idea of an internal social platform is nothing new, and there are plenty out there, many of which are already pushing up daisies.

The issue with social media in the total enterprise has always been execution. If the benefits of the platform redound primarily to marketing, to operations, or even to the enterprise, millennials (and the rest of us who spend our days on social media), you have given the company a good reason to buy, but you are a long way from getting employees to care, much less use the darned thing.

The product needs to be designed for – and pitched to – the youngest, most junior people in the company first. When they love it, they’ll use it. When you can create an internal social media platform that is so good that you will readily take people away from Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, WhatsApp, and Weibo, you will have created the platform we are all waiting to use.

Details about CultureSphere are still sketchy – they’re in the pump-priming final phases of building market interest in anticipation of their launch in July. But they are walking well-trod ground and bringing high expectations.

It is encouraging to see software developers realizing – well ahead of the market – that social media in business is should be  more than just another means of spewing out marketing messages and sales enticements. But if CultureSphere is going to be more than a re-warmed WebEx® Social, or a super-featured Yammer, it is going to have to deliver a product we are all going to want to use, not just a product our CEOs and CMOs can be convinced to buy.

Show us, CultureSphere.


The End of Snake Oil

Social media tools can mine data, but do they tell marketers a clear story that allows them to find qualified leads and engage meaningfully?

via Social Media Marketing Tools Aren’t Cutting It.

A Forrester report tells the social media marketing world that what they are doing is not enough.

The smoke clears, the mirrors shatter, and in the end, social media means blessed little unless it drives more business, makes the company work better, or enables the company to better respond to customers.

This is about more than just measurement. It is about stepping back and understanding social media in the context of the entire organization.

The Social Media 80-20 Rules

Pablo Biankowski at Dendrite Park offers an interesting post talking about how the Pareto principle applies to content in business social media. It’s a fascinating read, and it offers some good guidance for content creation.

But as Joab and I were talking the other day, we realized that when you think about it, the 80-20 rule applies in other areas in social media as well. First, and cuing from Pablo’s post, 20% of your content generates 80% of the attention, so don’t expect everything to be a hit, no matter how hard you work on it.

What we find more interesting is the participation numbers. You have to expect that 20% of your users generate 80% of the activity on the site. That means that 80% of your users will only generate 20% of the activity. If you are measuring the usefulness of your internal social media platform based on 100% use and “everybody” being active, you are in for a disappointment.

Unfortunately, we still hear too many managers complaining that they are not able to get everyone involved in their internal social media platforms. To them we say this: if you can get 20% of your people on the platform and using it, you’ve got a win.

The next step should be to get these power-users to provide feedback: what do they like about the platform, what do they not like, and how do they use it? Not only will you score points and additinal dedication from the most important users, you are also gainig valuable insight on how to engage more poeple.

So when you start your revolution, remember that you only need about 20% of your people to be the “cadre” of change, and adjust you key performance indicators accordingly.


Share This: Internal communications and the PR person

Share This: The Social Media Handbook for PR Professionals
Chartered Institute of Public Relations
July, 2012

We talk a lot here about the differences between social media that is directed toward outside audiences, and social media that is directed toward internal stakeholders. At the same time, ideas that serve one can also help serve the other.

While Share This, a compilation of advice from over two dozen specialists, is a more general resource on the uses of social media in PR, there is much to be mined here for the development of internal social communications.  it offers some ideas and guidance that can be of use when you are putting together a strategy for internal social communications. Three obvious examples:

  • Gemma Griffiths’ chapter on social media guidelines is a must-read even for internal comms, particularly as we move toward social  media platforms that have the option to share across porous membrane between internal and external audiences;
  • Becky McMichael’s chapter on open communications offers superb guidance that will help you keep internal social communities polite and civilized while they are still open and candid;
  • And of course, Rachel Miller’s chapter on employee engagement and internal communications hits right up the middle of the opportunities we face socializing our businesses.

There is gold to be mined in this book, and it belongs on the shelf of any internal communicator.


What Companies Are Using for Internal Social Media

One of the issues that got us thinking and writing about social media inside of companies was that although there is no shortage of platforms one could use as a platform for internal social media, none of them quite hit the mark. Before we delve deeply into why that is the case, we thought it might be helpful to offer a review of the platforms that are out there by someone who is not predisposed against them.

Internal communications specialist Rachel Miller at All Things IC offers an incredibly comprehensive list, cataloguing 25 platforms and some 400 case studies, that begs for perusal. There are videos demonstrating each of the platforms, and links to the sites of their creators.

A caveat on Rachel’s site is that the case studies and the videos all are produced by the companies that are selling the software and services. There is an extremely high happy-talk quotient here, and almost no “we tried this and it was great for three months, but after a year nobody was using it” stories.

Start with that, though, and we will try and add some balance when we dive into what we want in future platforms.