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Don't blanch: Social networks can be good for your company

Platforms can foster communications, ease knowledge sharing and ultimately, boost productivity and profitability

By Kristen Luke

Dec 19, 2013 @ 12:28 pm (Updated 3:29 pm) EST

social network, enterprise, clearvale, hipchat, jive, yammer, salesforce

Social media for marketing has become common practice in the financial industry. But did you know that the same technology that connects you with your clients, prospects and networking partners can also be used to benefit your firm internally?

An internal social network, known as an enterprise social network, promotes collaboration and improves productivity within your organization. These networks use many of the same features found on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn such as news feeds, comments and likes, as well the ability to find and follow people within the organization. Generally, these sites also include groups, chat features and file and photo sharing. Communication on an enterprise social network can be between just to two people or among the entire firm — and everyone in between.

An enterprise social network can help foster communication and facilitate the sharing of knowledge among your employees. It can be used as a way to share news and information or develop a searchable knowledge base. Even if you only have a few people in your office, you can benefit from your own social media platform.

HOW CAN YOU USE AN ENTERPRISE SOCIAL NETWORK?

You can use enterprise social media within your organization in many ways. Here are just a few possibilities:

• Announce personal updates about a client such as births, deaths, awards and retirement so employees at all levels are up to date when a client comes in the office.

• Share articles of interest you or your staff read in the trade publications to keep abreast of the latest industry news (e.g., 2014 tax law changes).

• Share sales and marketing successes that employees may not be aware of such as being mentioned in a newspaper, sponsoring a charitable event, publishing a new video blog, receiving a referral from an attorney or signing a new client.

• Make general announcements such as “there are cookies in the kitchen” or “our IT consultant will be here on Monday if you need to speak with him.”

• Share clients' challenges and the strategies that were used to develop a solution.

• Share clients' positive feedback and compliments.

• Create a group around specific topics and share information and resources in the group that will educate your staff and is easily searchable for future reference (e.g., tax planning; estate planning; practice management).

• Brainstorm ideas that make the business run more efficiently or enhance the client experience.

• Share documents or websites you've discovered that you would like to use for inspiration in your own materials (e.g., wording on how to explain the benefit of a fee-only business model; a client data-gathering questionnaire from a competitor).

• Provide updates on the status of a client project such as “we just received the last tax return we were waiting on from Jane Doe” to those employees who need to know.

While all of this information can be communicated through email, sharing it through an enterprise social network is less intrusive and makes it easier to search and reference in the future. If you choose a platform that allows for groups, employees can join groups and receive only the information that is pertinent to them. It allows your employees to provide and receive the information that is valuable to them without being overload with more e-mails.

WHAT ARE THE PLATFORM OPTIONS?

A quick Google search will bring up the many companies that offer enterprise social networks. Some are stand-alone systems while others integrate into the technology you already are using in your business, such as your CRM. When you are just beginning to investigate your options, here are five providers to consider:

Clearvale

HipChat

Jive

Salesforce Chatter

Yammer

An enterprise social network will not be appropriate for all firms. The biggest hurdle you'll face is adoption and participate from the staff. Like all social networking, for your internal platform to be successful, there has to be two-way interaction among a critical mass of employees. If you believe adoption is going to be difficult, an enterprise social network is probably not right for you. But if you have a technology-savvy staff that actively participates in social media in their personal lives, an enterprise social network may be the tool that can help take your internal communication and productivity to the next level.

Kristen Luke is president and chief executive of Wealth Management Marketing Inc. and co-founder of The Mercato, an online marketplace featuring do-it-yourself tools, templates and training for financial advisers. Follow her on Twitter: @kristenluke

(What's your experience? Have you created an enterprise social network? How has it benefited your firm? Join the conversation below!)