Public Vs. Private In Your Enterprise Social Network

Social networking and the collaboration dynamic is transforming the enterprise, right? Whether it is your Jive or Yammer instance, or more recently ChatOps like Slack and Hipchat, people know each other more, teams are working out loud by default, and organizations are getting more connected and agile.

It is a beautiful thing, right?

Well, yeah. It is. But we see things by degree. One organization’s transformation is another’s baby steps to change. One of the best guides for network strength and organizational opportunity is the ratio of public to private content within the network.

You can set up a network of 1000s and connect them; and then (not really) observe them participating in countless private conversations, replicating email.

Or you can drive open discovery, slightly risky sharing, and emergent behavior and connectivity through public discourse in public groups.

ChatOps tools work slightly differently, the live flow of data driving more front-of-mind, small scale conversations to contain the conversation and feed understanding. Most people I know seem to agree that ChatOps are for up to 20 people.

For Enterprise Social Networks (ESN), most community managers drive towards public by default. My own network balances out at 60:40 public:private at the group level; with messages at 90:10 public:private within those groups.

In other words, we drive public discourse within groups, but we acknowledge the need for self-contained groups. Most groups relate to teams of specialists (functional or interest-based).

While we push hard for people to work in the open on yammer, in groups (preferably public), we have never “advertised” private messages as they replicate email too easily. People like email, use it widely, we don’t try to compete with that form.

However, I am just fine with private groups, if people understand why they are containing the interaction. My own team has its own private group where we do a lot of our work.

Recently, I reviewed one month’s of this private group’s conversations (see below). Of them:

  • 20% had content that we were privy to before others (“confidential”)
  • 50% were conversations for us to align around before sharing “externally” into the org (the “open conversation” can happen later)
  • 10% could easily be open, but this is the group where the team talks, and there is no open equivalent group to share it to, and feedback from the team is the most valuable component
  • 20% is about stuff that (we surmise) no-one else is interested in (technical conversations where we are the experts, the only people with an opinion about…)
  • Plus, about 10% of these conversation had external people added to them to add input

Yeah, it adds up to 110% – what can I say, that’s how much value there is inside!?

When I talk about trust, a lot of it is about context. If I share a thread in the open, people will get patchy insight into the broader conversation that we have spent 5 years building in the team about our close-by/technical work.

I am also responsible for reflecting on the possible Return On Investoment (ROI) of sharing. This is why I worry about “spam”. By pushing threads into an open group by default, without considering the network audience, I am pushing it into (aka spamming) people’s feeds because

  1. we are heavily followed; and
  2. the very annoying “default-yammer-feed-to-Discovery/All-threads” will push random threads from my team to many people who have no interest in our work. They will (and do) ask, “what the hell has this got to do with me?

Now, it happens that I do share a lot of content into open groups too. I even have a group called Curiosity for what can only be called esoteric topics that might interest the broader network.

However, when someone joins me to their open group full of content that is very (eg) engineering heavy, I often “unjoin” because it is too much secondary/tertiary useful content for my feed. I make the same assumption about the work that happens in my (private) team group.

I very much respect my network, and if my team played in the open, it would quickly be seen as a comms network, not an organizational one (we are relatively small in numbers compared with the yammer behemoths).

All to say, I agree “default to public.” I have long pushed “Share is the new Save”.

Perhaps more importantly, thought, I try to default to smart, engaged thinking, putting my network compadres first.


Audit of one month’s comms team (private) group conversations

  • Ping teammate with ideas on how to run a campaign. Comments with links to resources
  • Data on social media in Brazil – prepping for a 2016 project
  • Long thread building our 2016 goals collaboratively – ideas, (dis)agreements, revisions
  • Heads up on the goals of one of our businesses so we can get line of sight
  • Reminder on how to use the yammer Info tab in the group
  • Monthly collation of activities for the mngmt report
  • Draft of a podcast production – before launch
  • Review of a photo contest we ran, before dissemination of results to org
  • Links to storytelling websites asking team to review
  • Some PPT branding changes – ask team to review. Constructive feedback!
  • Org’s social media 2015 review – to share with stakeholders. Discussion of data points
  • Share of other business goals for review
  • Share of documentation on how to rollout yammer (for another group)
  • Discussion on job hiring process in the team
  • Feedback on job candidates thread
  • Poll on preference of changes to email signature before rollout
  • Thread on advocacy with added resource links
  • Ideas added to old thread on how to showcase the accounting team
  • Share info from remote team on what they want to achieve with yammer this year
  • Discussion of marketing campaign for large project
  • Poll on best description of marketing campaign strapline
  • Sharing videos and client feedback for upcoming campaign for charity we support
  • Password change info!
  • 2015 review of team, with comments
  • 2015 goals review sign off process
  • Docs handover from leaving teammate

←This Much We Know.→


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