New research highlights challenges to using enterprise social networks (ESNs)

New research highlights challenges to using enterprise social networks (ESNs)

Our Kevin Ruck has been doing some research and found that fewer than 50% of respondents believe that the implementation of these internal social media tools in their organisation has been successful.

Despite the challenges to the successful implementation of ESNs identified by respondents, 66% of them agree that ESNs are having a positive impact on internal communication practice.

Published today (20 July) the report explores the challenges of using ESNs, as well as their benefits and impact on internal communication in the context of other recent ESN studies. It also includes interviews with ESN specialists and concludes with some pointers for effective ESN implementation.




Our research shows that the key challenges to the successful implementation of ESNs mainly relate to the culture of organisations and their readiness to embrace two-way communication. These challenges include encouraging employees to post comments on blogs (68%), getting managers to reply to comments (64%), and gaining buy-in from senior management (62%).


ESN management skills gaps provide evidence of a further barrier to the successful implementation of ESNs. The top five skills gaps cited by respondents include measuring the impact of using ESNs (53%), engaging senior managers to use an ESN (45%), integrating an ESN with other internal communication channels (44%), technical knowledge (42%) and community management skills (36%).


Given that most respondents believe that ESNs are having a positive impact on internal communication, it is perhaps unsurprising that the greatest benefits of using them highlighted by respondents centre around communication and collaboration. The benefits include making it easier for employees to share information with each other (92%), enhancing collaboration across the organisation (82%), enabling senior managers to use a more informal communication style (79%) and making it easier for employees to express their views (75%).

According to Kevin, ESNs are often discussed in terms of their benefit, how they can be used to enhance decision making and improve business strategies, and the prediction that they will supplant email as the dominant form of workplace communication. However, the study shows, there are many significant challenges to their successful implementation. These challenges, including the current skills gaps, need to be addressed before the full potential of ESNs can be realised.


The ‘Implementing Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs): Challenges and Benefits’ report is based on a questionnaire that was completed by 81 respondents in May 2016 and interviews that were conducted with experienced ESN managers in June 2016.

Most of the respondents to the questionnaire work in internal communication (56%), PR (10%) and social media/digital communication (10%), which reflects the demographics of the PR Academy alumni network. However, some respondents work in an IT department, in marketing or in human resources.

The report incorporates a brief overview of recent studies and articles about ESNs. It analyses the findings from the questionnaire and reviews the themes that emerge from the questionnaire’s open questions and the interviews conducted. It concludes with some pointers for future ESN implementation.

You can download the report here.