Social networks have changed the world of external communication and presence for many companies. But internally, their use can be even more transformational and far-reaching.

 

They’re a great way for companies to combat falling employee engagement and an age of excess of business challenges that present themselves as emails, interruptions, and a shortage of information and trust, John Gerstner writes for the Society for Human Resource Management. “Into this sea of opportunity, enterprise social networks are being trumpeted as white knights ready to rescue damsel organizations from their distress,” Gerstner writes. “Enterprise social networks function much like Facebook but can only be accessed internally, by employees who work for the company.”

 

Internal social tools are more important than ever, writes Margaret Rouse for TechTarget.com. They can improve employee access to information needed to solve problems effectively and work together efficiently. “Enterprise social networking includes the use of in-house intranet software as well as third-party social media platforms, like Yammer and Socialcast, to improve communication and collaboration between employees,” Rouse writes.

 

The use of such tools is growing quickly, Gerstner writes. “Market research firm IDC forecasts that the compound annual growth rate in the enterprise social software category will be 42 percent through 2015, with worldwide spending climbing to nearly $4.5 billion in 2016,” he writes.

 

But before your company jumps on board, make sure you have a clear idea of what you’d like to achieve, and make sure you’re ready to make the cultural changes necessary to help your organization embrace such tools. Such planning will help you get the most out of enterprise social networks, Paul Trotter writes for CIO.com.

 

“Collaboration tools are likely to take over your enterprise whether you like it or not, and it’s better to be the leader rather than the follower,” he writes. Keep in mind, these tools can help you better harness the creativity of your employees, especially those on the front lines with customers. Those workers likely see the improvements and needs to help your company continue being relevant.

 

Social tools can also help make your organization much more streamlined and secure, Trotter writes. “Gone are the days when large attachments need to be sent to hundreds and thousands of employees and consume vast amounts of storage for each individual copy: single points of cloud-based storage enable short messages linking to one copy only,” Trotter writes, quoting business consultant Daniel Steeves. “The risk of out-of-date manuals, procedures and processes can be mitigated by similar mechanisms.”

 

Culture is important, too. The use of social enterprise tools must be adapted from the top down, or you’ll likely have trouble earning buy-in. “You need cloud, social and mobile technology to make that happen effectively,” Trotter writes, quoting David Terrar, founder of social business consultancy Agile Elephant, “but it only works if you get the culture and leadership right, too.”