Recently the company I work for introduced Tibbr as an internal Social Network. It is a nice product suite with functionality you would expect in such a platform. We can now chat, blog, set up communities, and exchange ideas online via Tibbr. We can use it in the office but it also has mobile interfaces for a wide range of devices. The launch was professionally hyped and every initiative since then incorporated the new platform in its communication activities. Rumor has it that in a couple of months approximately 50% of my colleagues has registered. At the same time nobody is using it. Not really. And why is that?
One reason is probably that none of the Tibbr functionality is actually new to the targeted user community. We can now create a detailed profile around the topics we want to be associated with. Great of course, but that was already in place at My Site in our corporate SharePoint environment. The chat functionality is no step up from Microsoft Communicator or Lync. And the initial setup of Tibbr does not provide the structure and taxonomy present in our corporate intranet. So without an active effort to migrate content and phasing out the current functionality, Tibbr will not easily become the platform of choice. A fate it shares with recent implementations of Yammer and Jive.
Didn’t we already have something for this?
Even more important is the ‘external competition’ that any corporate IT system faces. Why implement a chat function if every employee has access to WhatsApp or Skype? What can a corporate blog site add to functionality available in WordPress or Blogger? And what is the added value of sharing a dedicated profile only with your colleagues if you have all details up-to-date on LinkedIn? Especially in the last decade we have seen the penetration of new functionality in the consumer market preceding the roll-out to corporate users, a trend labeled as ‘consumerisation’. And since employees are consumers as well they usually have a choice; especially the early adapters will quite often stick to their existing solutions instead of becoming the ambassadors of a corporate IT platform.
The use of Social Media does not stop at corporate boundaries and an ‘internal Social Network’ is close to a contradiction in terms. Corporate IT functions can implement policies in an attempt to keep new functionality out and enforce internal solutions. A more successful approach in my view is to recognize consumerisation and embrace it and at best direct the opportunities it provides both internally and externally.