From what I've seen, the main objectives of online social networks in companies are: to facilitate idea-sharing around a theme or topic (e.g. “Our Brand”); help users find out more about their peers; form useful insights to solve particular challenges; and for the network itself to become a useful repository of resources (ideas, inspiration, files, people) for participants.

However, the technology itself won't guarantee these results - it needs to be managed or curated effectively. Here are 20 subjective criteria I've used to help evaluate contributions to these networks:

1. Relevance to the stated objectives of the network
2. Poses questions to the group
3. Sparks discussion and comments
4. Enhances a lecture, discussion, debate or theme related to the purpose of the network
5. Makes a relevant statement
6. Responds to criticisms as well as compliments.
7. Builds on the ideas and contributions of others on the network.
8. Acknowledges the contributions of others.
9. Shares unexpected insights
10. Stories - especially from personal experience.
11. Recommendations to peers
12. Empathy - readability; humour; use of formatting; respect for other perspectives
13. Lists e.g. “Top 10…”, “Best ways to…”, “Our favourite”
14. Thought is given to topic before posting
15. Creativity or originality of ideas or the way they’re expressed
16. Clarity of expression.
17. Well structured arguments.
18. Mixes opinion and data.
19. Uses graphics to illustrate ideas
20. Contributes to the learning experience of others on the network

What you want to ultimately see is that the group is co-creating a knowledge ecosystem - so that if you want to explore any idea that catches your fancy further, you could find out who the contributors to it are.

In his book, “The Wisdom of Crowds”, James Surowieki reveals that the smartest groups are those that allow space for people to individually form and express ideas, independent of the group, which can then be “aggregated” into more cohesive solutions. This is one of  the key advantages of using the online network as opposed to discussing everything in person: it allows space for more ideas around a particular topic to be expressed simultaneously.