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 Salesforce.com 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.

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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.