Today's trends for tomorrow's business
3 Social Networks Designed for Business
February 17, 2020
You have choices you’ll love
As companies grow, employees tend to know less about their fellow employees and can lose access to their most valuable resource: their coworkers’ knowledge base. To bridge this gap, companies are adopting internal social network solutions that mirror traditional social networks in an attempt to reconnect coworkers and help them be more productive. Is this virtual water cooler right for your business? Let’s take a look.
What are business social networks?
Business social networks give businesses the tools to create their own social networks, where only their employees have access. Facebook, for example, has its own business version, Workplace by Facebook, that looks and acts much like the public version of Facebook with groups, newsfeeds, and messaging. Instead of dog pictures and restaurant check-ins, the information shared on the business social network centers around work projects, company events, and professional development.
What features do business social networks offer?
While each platform seeks to distinguish itself from its competitors, the general features are similar across sites, with a focus on bringing employees together and helping them collaborate.
- Groups: Spaces where teams can gather, share information and files, and collaborate. Group posts are divided into threads and are archived, allowing any teammate to search past conversations for information.
- Chat: Instant messaging, sometimes with video conferencing capabilities. Tells you when people are online and allows teammates to interact and ask questions quickly—without picking up the phone or sending an email.
- Homepage: Also known as a newsfeed. A main screen where people can share general information, files, and news. Similar to an intranet, but with increased usability to encourage everyday use (most employees visit their organization’s intranet just once a month). 
- Search function: Allows employees to search the public content they or their teammates have posted, greatly improving employees’ access to information.
- Mobile functionality: Nearly 81% of U.S. adults own a smartphone.  As a result, almost every business social network is designed to work across mobile phones, tablets, PCs, and more. This includes support for Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android.
What business social networks are available?
There are a number of companies currently pioneering the business social network space, targeting both small and large businesses. Here’s a little more on the three most prominent ones.
- Workplace by Facebook: The aforementioned business-focused version of the social network that uses the same Facebook tools you’re already familiar with (such as groups) to interact with coworkers. Work accounts are only visible to other people at your company.
- Yammer/Microsoft Teams: This year Microsoft integrated Yammer, which it has owned since 2012, into its own tab within Microsoft Teams.  Users can follow topic feeds, check out groups, and chat in Yammer without having to exit Teams.
- Slack: More of a group chat app than a social network, although Slack channels with longer posts and graphics can sometimes resemble a social feed. Slack brings all of a team’s communications into a single interface, organizing conversations into private and public channels. Slack is a better fit for smaller teams and is generally the preferred method of communication for tech workers.
Choosing one network over another is more a matter of preference than anything else. Most offer relatively similar features with some unique selling points. Facebook is more consumer-like, Slack is sleek and trendy, Yammer is a seamlessly integrated Microsoft product, and so forth.
Is a business social network right for your business?
Most platforms work well for both large and small businesses—especially when some employees work from home, telecommute, or work across multiple offices. The reason: most business social networks focus as much on productivity as they do on connecting employees socially.
Additionally, business social networks offer an easy way for any business to move away from the mass emailing that clogs up employees’ inboxes to more immediate, searchable, and intuitive ways of connecting that favor collaboration and fluid (rather than static) communication.
Take the first step
For most businesses, there's nothing to lose from trying a business social network. Most business social network solutions offer free trials and some solutions, such as Slack, work on a freemium model where you can try out the basic version for free and upgrade when you’re ready.
If your business is ready to take the first step, consider starting with a small user group for the initial trial, like the design department or all members on a specific project. Set goals for what you’d like them to achieve, then talk with everyone before and after the trial for a clearer view of how the business social network has changed their perceptions and performance.
- Bloomfire, What is a Social Intranet?
- Pew Research Center, Mobile Fact Sheet 2019
- Microsoft, Add a Yammer Page to a Channel in Teams
Windows and Office 365 are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. Android is a trademark of Google Inc.