unconvincedRecently I was in London at a meeting organised by the Insitute of Internal Communications, to discuss the challenges faced when launching an enterprise social network. The speakers were the excellent Jenni Wheller who I've followed for a while on Twitter (@jenniwheller) and Nick Crawford (@nick_crawford), who have both been responsible for introducing social networking internally, Jenni at SSP and Nick at Bupa.

Interestingly, the first distinction they made (in response to the question) was the difference between an enterprise (or internal) social network and a social intranet. The general agreement was that a social intranet is more like a traditional intranet but with social elements (which is how Jenni described the SSP setup) whereas an enterprise social network is not controlled centrally.

The evening included some detailed examples of both the speakers' approaches and some telling comments/questions from the floor which indicated just how hungry internal communicators are for direction in this area. A lot of people kind of know what needs doing but the question is HOW?

There's a book on my shelf called 'Social Media Marketing, an Hour a Day' by Dave Evans and it often pays to dip into it, even though it was published in 2008 (an age away in social media terms). It still contains a lot of relevant advice - stuff that is not platform- or tool-specific, but rather the nitty gritty that we're still a long way from solving. One such issue is how to introduce the idea of social media to a skeptical (if not hostile) audience of CEO, CTO, CFO etc. Dave is talking from a marketing point of view, but in fact internal communicators are facing exactly the same issue now.

His advice then was first of all to begin your argument with business objectives - the things that nobody can argue with, that put you all on common ground. Steer clear of even mentioning Yammer, Twitter or any other platform, as that will kick people off on their personal bugbears. Secondly, stick to the kind of business language everyone uses and feels comfortable with - leave the social media speak for another time. And last but not least, don't scare them off with too grand a plan.

"Social media is disruptive. Be sensitive to that, and provide a solid footing that minimizes risk and the potential for failure. Make it easy for the decision makers in your organisation to support you. Then over-deliver." (p 324). In my mind this is still solid advice and as important as ever, four years on. Jenni Wheller's take was very similar - her strategy was to keep it simple, work towards cultural readiness (in itself often a big ask) and don't try to run before you can walk.