It can be difficult to conceptualise, beyond the idea of "Facebook for the Enterprise", what an enterprise social network (ESN) is or does. I think this can create a misconception that ESNs are simply about employee engagement (as some of the early case studies suggested) or worse just for sharing jokes (a situation one law firm told me that this was all that their microblogging platform was used for).
But as we move through the technology innovation cycle, our use of ESNs is becoming more sophisticated and integrated into work and service delivery.
Sometimes a picture - or in this case a video - paints a better story. This has to be one of my favourite things to come out of the Salesforce Dreamforce 2012 conference so far, a video showing Virgin America's Salesforce Chatter-based "intranet". Or is it an "extranet" or a Website? Actually, I don't think it matters what we call it, but what it achieves for Virgin America:
(I suggest you fast forward to about 1m 35s)
One of the key points for me is when Virgin America CEO David Cush explains:
"90% of the people that work for our airline never sit down at a desk, and never sit down at a pc. The way they communicate is mobile phone, with a tablet, when someone is waiting on a crew bus. Or waiting on the train."
For some more backstory on this, check out Dion Hinchcliffe and Alan Lepofsky's presentation at Dreamforce 12, The Future of Social in the Enterprise.
This is the New Intranet. Its not about where it lives or even if it runs on a WCMS or SharePoint, but what it does.