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The explosion in the social media platform market is evidence that social media in the enterprise has taken off like a rocket after just a few years of introduction. There are more than 25 serious contenders, not the least of which is Microsoft's SharePoint 2013 with Yammer built in.
And it has succeeded for good reason: The de-siloing of business and the increase in employee participation in process improvement and decision support more than justify the presence of social media software in the enterprise. Enterprise social media growth can easily rage out of control, consuming too many resources and slowing down operations -- despite the fact that it should speed things up.
In the case of SharePoint social media, we should also note that adoption can be difficult. Do we really want to slow down uptake, when enthusiastic adoption is what we've been after all along?
The key to rapid social media growth is maintaining control of that growth. And that control begins with good planning. Here are some important growth-control measures to consider when making those plans.
Hand off to Yammer
When Microsoft bought Yammer in 2012, it did so for several important reasons. One was to save time, to get a proven social network integrated with SharePoint as quickly as possible, given that SharePoint's built-in social features still had a ways to go, development-wise. This was a smart move, and an economically satisfying one.
An unexpected plus, however, is Yammer's capacity to accommodate spontaneous teaming. When in-house social networking yields innovative, ad hoc collaboration to attack some problem, the impulse is to get into SharePoint, spin up a team site, provision it and get rolling. But this consumes SharePoint resources without advance planning and generates unnecessary overhead. Yammer allows you to create work groups within Yammer spontaneously, with essentially the same capabilities as those in a SharePoint team site -- document upload, event scheduling, etc. -- from a separate resource pool. So, where SharePoint would sprawl, Yammer can take some of the load off.
Yammer can also help where the SharePoint social media growth burden is heaviest: with content. With increased social network activity comes increased content contribution. But unmanaged, that content is unhelpful. Yammer can "pre-organize" content before it goes permanently to SharePoint by allowing group members to generate topics, and attach content and messages to those topics for review (and eventual permanent storage).
Workflows for provisioning
Within SharePoint itself, the ad hoc energy of social networking and discovery will inevitably lead to the use of SharePoint resources to make that shared energy productive -- with team sites, workspaces and so on.
That's a double-edged sword: The utility of these sites can be offset by the creation of too many of them -- spinning up a site for a project that already exists or failing to monitor and retire the ones no longer in use -- and that hurts everyone.
Workflow is the answer for this one. Having workflow in place for the provisioning of new sites and workspaces -- an approval process that double-checks to see if resources are already deployed for this purpose or that -- and workflow to stimulate regular review of resources out there in a site collection will ensure that user enthusiasm doesn't lead to waste.
Finally, there's an important function in a social network that the enterprise may overlook, though there's a SharePoint equivalent. Most social hubs have moderators: active participants who contribute to the dialogue and keep an eye on conversation, resources and content contributed.
A moderator does the same job as a SharePoint site owner, looking after the community, offering course corrections, jumping in and keeping an eye on the traffic. It's a behind-the-scenes role that can make the difference between success and failure.
Each of these mitigations is modest, but in combination they can turn a failure into a success. And the problem they address -- too much enthusiasm, too much growth and too much sprawl -- is ultimately a great problem to have.
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