Long-Term Value & Your ESN: Finding the Magic and Making it Stick

You’ve got this shiny new thing called an enterprise social network (ESN). You’ve unwrapped the package, installed the batteries, read the instruction manual, and flipped the switch. Abracadabra! Poof! This thing is ON. You move forward with an awareness campaign, you train your users, and after the first few months you even have some metrics you can collect. But you still might be scratching your head, thinking, “How do I create long-term value with this thing?” Upper management is breathing down your neck, wanting to know how it’s going, and by the way, has it paid for itself yet?

Quite likely, before you even rolled out your ESN, you gave considerable thought to your goals and linked them to the corporate mission and objectives. This high-level view is both necessary and useful for setting the stage to get down to the nitty gritty. But once your ESN is up and running, you’ve got to really dig in and figure out how it will deliver long-term value for your employees while adding to the bottom line.

ESNs can be a hard nut to crack. Sometimes, you really just want someone to say, “Here you go, here’s the magic formula to a successful ESN: [insert unicorn and rainbows here].” But in our heart of hearts, we know that no amount of “Alakazam!” or “Open Sesame!” will make any difference. One of the most useful things we can do in our quest for the “magic” is to listen and learn from others in the field. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Ross, community manager extraordinaire at Humana. Humana is a health insurance company in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, that decided to pursue creation of an internal network in 2009. After evaluating many options, they settled on Socialcast and were off and running. Ross has had much success with Humana’s internal social network, named Buzz, which has shown a steady increase in engagement since the early days in 2009 and is currently at 92 percent adoption.

Wait, what?

That’s right, 92 percent adoption across the enterprise. This is an amazing statistic, when you consider that in a 2015 survey by Simply Succeed, only 10 percent of the companies surveyed indicated that their ESN had an adoption rate of 60 percent or more. That leaves a whopping 90 percent of ESNs that were still striving to reach beyond the 60 percent adoption mark, with 33 percent of companies reporting 15 percent adoption or less. Similarly, the 2017 State of Community Management report by The Community Roundtable discovered that engagement in ESNs was reported at 40 percent (defined as collaborators, creators, and contributors). While the 2015 survey did mention that the ESNs were at various levels of roll-out (could be pilot, could be a few years), the 2017 study did not indicate where the reported ESNs were in their journey. Nevertheless, the low adoption rates indicate that many struggle with really getting their employees on board to truly engage in, and realize the business value of, their ESN.

So, what’s Ross’ secret to creating long-term value with Humana’s ESN? Based on the above statistics, this will come as no surprise: Hard work, commitment, and a plotted path forward apply just as much to your ESN as they do to any other endeavor. Ross shared stories of Buzz’s inception, journey, and path to 92 percent. Here is what stood out:


Ross' approach to growing Buzz in a smart way is to have two to three “big ideas” each year to focus on. It is tempting to try and do too much, and sometimes difficult to whittle down, but make sure that your ideas align with your objectives. For example, in the early days, Ross focused on awareness and initial adoption, and sought out teams that were interested in using the platform. Buzz never had a “big bang” enterprise rollout, which means Ross was free to pursue the “slow and steady wins the race” approach to growth and adoption, focusing on the early adopters and the places and teams that could more readily see an impact and realize value. It is also important to note that pursuing a “big bang” rollout has been shown to have disappointing results, as discussed in a SWOOP Analytics report and the Gartner hype curve. When you focus on meeting the immediate needs of targeted groups, you ensure that they will adopt the new behaviors needed to make using your ESN part of their routine.

In between all that focus, purpose, and humanity, Jeff Ross makes sure to bring humor and a real presence to Buzz.

In between all that focus, purpose, and humanity, Jeff Ross makes sure to bring humor and a real presence to Buzz.


At Humana, the primary goals from the beginning were to accomplish business objectives and build positive interpersonal relationships. Notice something missing there? Reaching x percent adoption is NOT on the list. This stands out because the stated purpose of the platform is squarely focused on building value rather than hitting a certain number.

| MORE: Step beyond strict financial KPIs and consider the intangible values of an ESN

One area where Buzz has been able to drive an increase in conversations is through its many integrations—over 1,100 integrations across 10 different applications! Buzz's path to integrations started with its primary objective—supporting employees in building better interpersonal relationships at work. How can this be accomplished? By making it easy for them. How? By integrating Buzz conversations in as many ways as possible. By making Buzz conversations readily available in other apps, employees can have relevant interactions about the work at hand and get quicker responses as well. Integration makes it convenient for employees and puts Buzz right at their fingertips in a “can’t be missed” opportunity to engage with their peers. Additionally, a live-streaming integration was implemented when Humana’s new CEO embraced Buzz in 2012. The live-streamed town halls were such a hit with employees, and “especially helpful” in boosting Buzz engagement. Not only that, but having leaders use the live-stream feature for big events has become so ingrained, that it is now the expected way for leaders to communicate.

In the first year, non-work—related discussions accounted for about 55% of all discussions. Now, 7 years later, the adoption of Buzz has grown so much that non-work discussions only account for 15-20% of all discussions, while work-related discussions grew to 80-85%.


Ross stated it was an intentional decision to allow company culture to play a big role in guiding the tenor of their ESN. “The #1 topic on our network is health and wellness—when people share their success stories, it’s wildly popular,” he noted. Humana also allowed “non-work” social discussions to grow organically in their network. In the first year, these non-work—related discussions accounted for about 55 percent of all discussions. Now, seven years later, the adoption of Buzz has grown so much that non-work discussions only account for 15-20 percent of all discussions, while work-related discussions grew to 80-85 percent. When employees feel free to engage in non-work topics, they begin to feel more empowered to engage on the ESN in work-related matters, leading them to feel like they have a voice in what goes on at Humana. This theme of “voice” popped up several times in our conversation. Ross underscored the importance of the role Buzz has played in giving employees a voice, and how critical that is to engagement.


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Evangelize Value

Inevitably, you will be asked for metrics on your ESN. And to be sure, some of those numbers will be helpful in understanding your journey and outlining trends. Ross’ recommendation: “Share your success stories, and keep doing this [over time]. Highlight business value over activity-type metrics.” What does this tell us? Success stories “from the trenches” are not just important in the early days, but they will continue to be important because there will always be people looking to understand how your ESN can offer tangible value. Seeing and hearing real-life stories from co-workers about how they are using your ESN to collaborate, problem-solve, and get work done is the best advertisement you can use to drive home the point that your ESN is worth the investment.

“What is that one piece of advice you’d give to people starting an ESN—the thing they really must know or do?”

There was no hesitation in his response: “Have a full-time Community Manager devoted to your ESN.”


Ultimately, I couldn’t help myself— I had to ask Ross, “What is that one piece of advice you’d give to people starting an ESN—the thing they really must know or do?” (That’s me, looking for a magic formula again).

There was no hesitation in his response: “Have a full-time Community Manager devoted to your ESN.”

As it turns out, your ESN can’t run itself (I’m sure you already had a hunch about that.) But seriously, the swiftness of Ross' response made it apparent just how valuable he found the role of community manager. At the helm of Buzz since its inception, Ross has plotted a course each year and seen the platform make steady gains in providing business value and connecting employees. Enterprise community managers typically wear many hats, responsible for the basics, such as training, evangelizing, and connecting users, to creating meaningful dashboards, driving leadership usage, interfacing with IT and other departments on integrations, and more. Without someone at the helm, where would your ESN go? Hiring an enterprise community manager to strategize, manage, and guide your ESN is essential to its long-term success.


It Didn’t Happen Overnight

Why is Humana’s Buzz so successful? Over the course of seven years, they have charted a course to steadily meet personal-level needs while providing business value. They have supported their employees in building positive interpersonal relationships by allowing them the freedom to make emotional connections on Buzz. And they’ve invested in a full-time community manager, Ross, who creates and drives strategy for Buzz, ensuring that business objectives are met. Humana’s willingness to see and understand the value of Buzz in the early stages allowed Jeff to continue on a carefully thought-out path, building value for employees and the business alike.



Melissa Rosen grew up with rotary phones with long spiral cords, quad roller skates, and TVs with rabbit ears. She still reads books, but nonetheless finds social media applications fascinating and is convinced of their value in the workplace. Melissa has worked in the enterprise social network space for the last seven years. As a consultant with Talk Social To Me, Melissa works with Fortune 500 clients to build strategic collaboration programs and enterprise social network engagement. 

Yammer in a Time of Crisis: Supporting Employees During Hurricane Irma

Social Media is the New News

More and more, we turn to social media for our information, answers, and advice. A majority of U.S. adults look to social media for news, according to a Pew Research Center survey. When a disaster strikes, and in times of emergency, we’re jumping on social channels to find information in the fastest ways possible. When more traditional news channels aren’t fast or local enough, social media becomes our go-to hub for real time, community-sourced information.

Organizations are now harnessing this instinct and advantage internally. As companies implement enterprise social networks, they have a community-driven, social tool on hand that can be used during times of crisis to support employees, facilitate connections, and disseminate information.

Internal Social Communities Support Employees in Times of Need

Recently, Talk Social to Me had the opportunity to help Johnson & Johnson stand up a Yammer group to support employees in just such a situation. During September’s Hurricane Irma, a J&J employee shared her desire to help evacuated employees find housing with other employees out of harm’s way. Within hours, a cross-functional team from IT, Human Resources, Workforce Communications, Global Services and others mobilized to make this happen – and the Employee Home Share program was born.

Employee Home Share map image courtesy of Johnson & Johnson.

Employee Home Share map image courtesy of Johnson & Johnson.

The Employee Home Share program involved quick-thinking IT leaders building a proprietary cloud-based database and map of available homes and a corresponding Yammer group to foster real-time conversation and support for affected employees and those offering their home. It also harnessed activation of a global employee assistance team, and announcements from senior leadership about the program. A full ecosystem of people, processes and technology tools was linked together in order to make the program a success.

As one component of J&J’s broad response to Irma for employees, Yammer’s easy-to-use interface and no-fuss group setup made it easy to create a social hub where employees could come together to find resources, ask questions, and support one another. The group’s focus was to provide specific emergency resources and phone numbers, and also to allow them to sign up to offer shelter to those who had suddenly found themselves without one in the aftermath of the hurricane. The Yammer group became a powerful place to pull people together and offer support while also exemplifying corporate values. Coupled with real-time community management and clear instructions for employees, the Employee Home Share group on Yammer was a successful social-media-driven approach to building community in a crisis situation.

Powerful Reasons to Use Your Online Employee Community to Support Employees in a Disaster Relief Situation:

  • Your community can serve as a gathering place for all employees to come together to build community, despite differing locations and circumstances
  • Important information and documents can be posted for convenience and easy reference. A group can be used as the defacto “home” for official information regarding the event, which lessens the confusion for users by consolidating where this information is placed
  • A group provides a one-stop-shop for all questions, and the group is searchable for others to find past threads
  • Employees on mobile devices and without access to the internet or electricity can still connect in one place
  • Announcements can be made to easily reach a broad audience
  • HR & Communications can monitor the conversation to know more about what is going on and identify additional needs by individual employees
  • Viral sharing of information to critical teams and individuals can bypass corporate bottlenecks, accelerating the speed at which helpful information travels
  • Individual employees can become part of the solution as they find an opportunity to help organically




Supercharged Collaboration with Partners, Vendors and Customers in Workplace by Facebook Multi Company Groups

Last week, Workplace by Facebook rolled out the ability for companies to collaborate securely with non-employees inside designated “Multi Company Groups” (MCGs for short), even if the external collaborators don’t have a Workplace account of their own. Collaboration with business partners outside of one’s own company is critical. Vendors, customers, and partners are all part of our work ecosystem, but we tend to communicate with them via email, in person and over the phone. This makes it incredibly difficult to stay “in the flow” when everyone inside your company is using Workplace. Jumping between emails and apps, and not knowing where to find important information, is frustrating and time consuming. With the new multi company group experience, Workplace has created a productivity bullet train by allowing employees to keep more workflows and more communication in one digital location. This reduces context-switching and keeps managers in control of when and where work is getting done – work with external partners can now happen alongside internal communication on Workplace.

Work Faster and Better with Multi Company Groups

How does your company get started with Multi Company Groups? Here are our Top 10 favorite ways to use them effectively.

1.     Client Project Management: At Talk Social to Me, we create a MCG with each of our Workplace customers and share project information exclusively inside this group. Our key customer contacts, typically between 2-5 Communications and IT leaders, join the project MCG dedicated to our shared engagement, and our TSTM Community Managers, project managers, and strategists collaborate with them on a daily basis. We post deliverables, ask for feedback, share weekly successes, and post next week’s agenda inside. Our clients can respond with a simple “like” to show that they’ve seen our work, and they can use comments to give feedback without ever needing to download an attachment. We rely on @mentions to alert key members to updates requiring their attention.

2.     Client Relationship-Building: Workplace MCGs help us build deeper, authentic relationships with clients by giving us a personal, colloquial, engaging way of connecting. Being able to share reactions like “love” and “haha,” having real-time conversations with short bursts of dialogue (as opposed to formal emails that read like memos), and even using gifs inside comments let us develop rapport and personal connections to our clients as people, not just business associates.

3.     Solo Practitioner Inclusion: Outside professionals can be trusted extensions of your company. If you outsource certain project functions to a lawyer, a publicist, or a graphic designer, for example, a MCG is a surefire way to collaborate with them on a per-project basis. Exchange redlines, drafts, and comments in a dedicated MCG to keep a complete project history and capture final deliverables in one place. Think about Workplace as a digital place to short-circuit the traditional methods of using email for collaboration, all while building stronger relationships with the people that you trust to support your team.

4.     Gig Economy Management: Consultants may come and go, but the Gig Economy is here to say. Project consultants and external expertise may be required for a short period of time on a project, but how does a manager bring someone into the communication fold on a temporary basis? It’s all about control, and a project MCG is a place that you, as its Admin, can control who gets in or out. This allows you to ensure the privacy of your work and conversations, so you can collaborate with the assurance that your double top secret discussions are not overheard. Managers can bring consultants in and out of MCGs as needed to ensure proper collaboration and data privacy at the same time.

5.     Community of Practice: The saying goes that “two heads are better than one,” but we believe that sometimes, hundreds of heads are better than two. A Workplace MCG can facilitate an online virtual community of practice for experts, academics, and leaders in an area of cooperation like humanitarian aid, healthcare, and regional resource and crisis mobilization. If your organization collaborates frequently with outside experts for the benefit of a particular group of people, why not bring them all together in an MCG for on-demand access to a virtual think-tank of ideas, questions and expertise? Not only can you catalyze support for your own organization’s initiatives, but you’ll also be creating an ongoing flow of information-sharing that benefits the community at large.

6.     Exclusive Customer Community: If your business is large enough to warrant a community of customers that might benefit from connecting with each other, consider an MCG to bring them together online. You can facilitate dialogue and make introductions while giving customers the freedom to answer each other’s questions (and occasionally hold your feet to the fire!). Gather feedback on new products and/or processes, or perhaps even select product testers from this MCG. Talk through your decision-making process and be transparent. Exclusivity is also a great relationship strengthener! Use the MCG to give partners an exclusive first look at your newest offerings.

7.     Deals, Deadlines, and Multi-Partner Collaboration: Sometimes a project requires your service providers and trusted advisors to collaborate with each other. If you’re looking to acquire a smaller firm, you may need lawyers and accountants to jointly review their financials. Publishing a catalogue or marketing mailer requires copywriters, photographers and graphic designers to design layouts together. Give your service providers an easier way of connecting to each other under your company’s digital umbrella. This ensures that all deliverables and conversations between your partners are captured in your system, for your records, and all under your watchful eye.

8.     On-the-Job-Learning: Stop playing traffic-cop between your employees and partners or customers by giving them the chance to collaborate independently in a MCG. An MCG allows a new employee to safely take a stretch assignment with a customer, for example, or learn how to manage a vendor independently – but with a manager’s ability to intervene if needed. Jump in when you need to, or when you’re tagged for a response – managers have total visibility into each step of the project without the overhead of wading through hundreds of reply-all emails to keep tabs on everyone’s work. MCGs build trust between managers and their employees as work is completed “out loud” in a natural way.

9.     Weekly Social Summaries: Creating a weekly status update for employees, partners and vendors in a Workplace is the digital equivalent of telling email to go jump in a lake. As a leader coordinating a project, you only have time to document milestones, next steps and questions in one place. Writing five separate emails to partition information to various parties just isn’t efficient. Managers can write up one weekly social summary in an MCG for all involved parties, assigning to-dos with @mentions and aggregating all comments and questions in one place. Project status emails will quickly find themselves swimming upstream.

10.  Event Follow-Up: If you hosted an industry roundtable, a women’s leadership lunch, a prospective candidate Q&A, or any other networking-type event, open a Workplace MCG to keep the discussion going afterwards. You’ll have the opportunity to build dialogue and relationships with peers in a highly social manner, and maybe you’ll even find your next employee or partner to join your team.

A Special Note for Community Managers

We love Multi Company Groups and all that they offer. But before you unleash them to your entire organization, it’s important to add special MCG considerations to your policies and governance. If you are prohibited from sharing Secret or Confidential information in Workplace, make sure that you document the kinds of information that may and may not be shared with external members inside your MCGs. And, while MCGs can be easily justified as a replacement for email (because, in reality, it’s the same behavior – digitally sharing information with outsiders), it’s important to educate leadership on MCG security. No, external users cannot obtain access to public groups inside your company’s network. External members are completely locked down into the groups into which they were invited and can be removed at any time. A little bit of preparation up front with leadership will make the launch of MCGs at your organization a million times easier.

What Do You Think?

How are you using Multi Company Groups on Workplace? We’d love to hear from you!

6 Tips to Transition Your Company Publication into an Employee Community


It marks the end of an era. After decades of publication, C-suite executives have decided to cease the printing of your organization's company magazine as they launch an employee community.

You’re not quite sure how you feel about it. The company magazine has been viewed as an industry symbol and incarnation of the business for as long as you can remember. You’ve worked hard to plan, write, edit and paginate the publication each month, and there’s nothing like the smell of fresh print when the magazine is delivered from the plant. Part of you feels like donning a black veil and calling around to schedule a proper burial service.

Mourn not, internal communications pro. It’s time to admit it. There is another part of you that feels strangely liberated. This is an exciting opportunity to start something fresh, and unbound by the constraints of print.

Not sure where to start? Translating your existing internal communications into your employee community isn’t as daunting as you think.

Take inventory

Unless your publication recently was revamped, chances are that you’re not over the moon for every standing feature that’s included in each publication. Do you dread writing a certain piece each month because it’s just not exciting? Chances are, if you think it’s boring, your audience will, too. Before deciding whether or not to translate this content into your employee community, ask yourself, “WGAS,” or “Who Gives A S***.” (Shout out to my favorite journalism professor for evangelizing this acronym to her student editors.)

Ideally, you keep a log of responses and feedback to printed content in each issue in a spreadsheet or similar format. If you still have a few issues to go before the publication is put to bed for good, now is a good time to start one. Note the influx of emails you received about your last “From the Tech Desk” feature regarding a new innovation. Record the letters to the editor thanking you for featuring a late longtime employee who made a significant impact. These are signs that this content is resonating with employees, and should be translated - in some manner - into your employee community.

Once you identify key themes, consider whether they warrant group creation. If employee recognition is a popular topic, for example, consider partnering with human resources and the employee recognition team to transition existing programs onto the platform.

Examine existing communications strategy

To be frank, internal company magazines are hierarchical, by nature. Use this change in medium to examine your corporate communications strategy and whether it truly promotes a positive, open culture. (The answer is likely "no," if your main means of employee communication are magazines and newsletters.) You could be missing out on a chance to foster a more productive workforce.

Instead of ghostwriting a monthly “From the CEO” feature, consider hosting a live blog or live video, if available on the platform, for example. Invite employees to submit questions to the executive to foster a more transparent culture, and give them more ownership.

Consider your audience

Print is great for long-form content, but this type of post to your employee community likely isn’t the best way to capture the attention, unless employees already are snuggled up on the couch with a carton of ice cream before bed. People are inherently egotistical; according to a 2015 study from Microsoft Corp., the average attention span is less than that of a goldfish.

Before posting content within the community, ask yourself:

1.     What is the purpose of sharing this content?

2.     To who will be of the most value?

3.     How might I best capture their attention?

These questions should not only inspire where you're posting content, but the type of elements you decide to include (photo, poll, live video, etc.)

Balance the "broccoli" and "ice cream"

As an internal communications pro, you know that not all announcements are "fun." Try to strike a balance between giving your community "broccoli," or necessary information that might not be particularly exciting (shareholder information, for example), and "ice cream," more exciting content (like crowdsourcing polls). 

Create a daily marketing strategy to foster employee engagement and more frequent return visits. Balance planned, timely posts in your content calendar with organic, user-generated content.

Keep your print archive close

Just because executives have given future print publications the boot doesn’t mean you should kick your archived copies to the curb. Use your archives to your advantage. Sometimes the most engaging content stems from nostalgia. As cliche as it sounds, the past helps to give perspective to the present and future. 

Keep your digital analytics closer

One of the key benefits of transitioning your employee magazine into the digital space is having greater insight into what resonates with your audience. Use your platform's native analytics or go deeper with an integration, like SWOOP Analytics, to analyze top posts. Where do they originate? Who is posting them? What makes them so interesting? Consider using a top post as inspiration for your content marketing plan, boost a valuable post in an "All Company" group, or provide an "official" response to a trending thread to help bring context.

Is a former print feature not garnering the desired engagement within the community? Consider revamping it to target a different audience, or slashing it altogether to help focus efforts elsewhere.

Amanda Whitesell, a community manager for Talk Social To Me, has experience consulting newsroom leaders across Michigan in digital audience development and social media. As a former journalist, her content has appeared in USA Today, Detroit Free Press and Lansing State Journal.

Enterprise Social Network Rollouts, Language, and Culture, Oh My!

Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, public domain

It’s exciting to introduce an enterprise social network (ESN)! It’s also very common to start by planning a giant, one-time event. But enterprise social networks, while often guided by the same people leading other company-wide initiatives, are inherently different and there are many reasons why the correct sequence of events and use of language is critical. ESNs are relationship tools for your employees. Like those work relationships, employee networks can go on forever and they are central your company’s strategy with regard to its top asset:  its people.  

To prove value back to the business and to the employees who use it, an ESN requires the gradual steps of a crawl-stand-walk-run methodology. How else would you approach the Yellow Brick Road? The most compelling thing about any ESN is a sense of shared purpose derived from the people who are participating. People and human nature require time to build trust and create motivation. This is done by making the network an important tool that grows in value as it reaches the hands of more and more of its intended users. Gradual introductions, steps on a journey to the Emerald City are a better approach.

A Brick by Brick Approach

We’re not advocating spending years rolling out your community and collaboration program. We are, however, recommending that you take a set of measured steps that build on each other in a sequence that makes sense. Here’s an example introduction plan for a 10,000-person network:

  • SAS, a business analytics software company, deployed Socialcast for their ESN to over 70% of the company in just a few months. SAS employees experienced faster access to information and better ways to be connected to key information because the ESN connected people across the globe to each other. Employees were happier to be able to help customers more quickly (and this increased customer satisfaction).
  • In a second example, a Fortune 100 health and wellness company migrated their ESN platform from SharePoint to Jive over a 12-week period. Talk Social to Me helped the company to segment and prioritize its rollout. Programs were launched to teach high-touch users to migrate their own content and an embedded community manager trained, onboarded and facilitated users and ambassadors resulting in a network of 16,000 users and 375 groups.

Introducing an ESN in Waves is a Surer Road to Travel

SWOOP Analytics, a behavioral analytics company, has been mapping organizational networks for over 10 years. They caution companies against using only growth and engagement metrics in their enterprise social networks. These measures work in the early phases but do not actually quantify the value being created. In employee networks, value creation comes through collaboration, empowerment and relationships.

In a 2016 SWOOP report analyzing data from 16 Yammer communities, they compared gradual vs. all-at-once community introductions. 

3 key patterns were found:


In the Classic Yammer introduction pattern above, the shift from free to paid use of Yammer was accompanied by an influx of more resources to drive engagement. After a certain point, new adoption flatlined.  

  • Due to recent changes at Microsoft made since the SWOOP research was published, Yammer is now bundled into other enterprise software options. However, getting users to adopt it still requires investments in community management and strategy.

In a second Yammer Hype Curve pattern (named by Gartner Group), engagement decline followed a big all-at-once introduction. Gartner calls this big decline the “Trough of Disillusionment.” SWOOP also noticed that with this method, companies had inflated expectations of growth because of the deep investment by leaders in this “big introduction.” Disillusion is a good name for what Dorothy went through each time as she and her traveling companions asked the Wizard of Oz for his help.  

In the third Yammer Launch Pad pattern, the Trough continued to be present, but recovery from it was aided by new energy infused from the successive groups coming into the network. Gradual introduction brings the crests and troughs of engagement together in one place where you can create a sea of change as groups are cresting and falling all in one place. With this third pattern, Yammer awareness was stronger for a longer period in the minds of company leaders. Keep knocking on the doors to Oz.

Position Community in Perpetuity, Believe in Oz Like Dorothy

The language of how a social network is introduced needs to be nuanced. Unless you have generous, creative people who don’t mind investing time and energy into something that’s labelled an experiment, don’t call your community introduction (to just that early first group of users, right? Right.) a “pilot” or a “trial.”

Find other terms (and plan a gradual rollout to accompany these) that position your network to those first invited as an exclusive experience. Couple a community’s introduction with a very specific purpose (like shifting the work on special initiative being worked on by two teams) to infuse a sense of necessity and usefulness. Combining these elements will create positive first impressions, including a sense of good planning rather than engagement for engagement’s sake. As groups are invited in waves, observe patterns of uptake. How do groups in one part of the business respond as opposed to others? With each new group, you can iterate and better align to company culture.

  • As Phillips prepared to launch their Socialcast ESN, they discovered a pre-existing ESN with more than 1,000 users. These enthusiastic early users were moved to the new solution and their direct engagement and experience, having already having used a similar solution, helped shape and nuance the rest of the company being brought into the new Socialcast site.

There’s No Place Like a Valued Enterprise Social Network

Dorothy was wearing the Ruby Slippers even as she sought help from the Wizard of Oz. She had the capability to go home at any time, but she didn’t know how to tap that power until she made the effort to see and give the Wizard what he wanted. Your social network is also a learning journey. Target the most pertinent use cases and don’t be afraid to start small. Initial wins are your tools to support the long game as your forge your path toward measuring value instead of engagement.

Rachel Medanic, a community manager for Talk Social To Me, is an online community, content and social enthusiast. She's worked with Cisco, Intuit and startup companies on their community and audience relationships. As a child, Rachel did not own any Ruby Slippers, but she does remember being fond of a pair of red Garanimals.


The Hunt for Employee Happiness


#WOL? What is all the buzz this week about “WOL?” It’s World of Leopards week, don’t you know. And for leopards, apparently Slack is the collaboration tool of choice (see :24 into the video). Avoid those pesky animal-to-animal encounters:

You caught us! #WOL and #WOLweek in the enterprise have, in fact, nothing to do with a Facebook leopard enthusiast group. #WOL is an acronym for "Working Out Loud." According to Dion Hinchcliffe, Working Out Loud “Is perhaps the most fundamental digital workplace skill." As this week’s final celebration for International Working Out Loud (#WOL) Week, Talk Social To Me is continuing to demystify the concept, created by John Stepper.

Earlier this week, we shared a video about what WOL means. Working Out Loud is a different approach to behaviors and relationships that you can use to grow and nurture your employee community. In this post, we’ll focus on the beneficial behaviors that your employees experience by working out loud:

Practice. Trust. Comfort. Evoke.

These are not always easy for employees, however. Getting people started on the WOL path requires trust and lots of practice, says James Tyer of SWOOP Analytics. Tyer shares stories of and some of the evocative questions that he used to get WOL started in a Yammer environment. Once trust and participant comfort is established, imagine how powerful it is to have a safe place for people to ask and answer even more open-ended questions that Tyer uses:

  • What is a challenge you can't solve alone?
  • What work system or process frustrates you and you wish you could change - and how?

Notice the focus of the second question is on systems and processes, not people? That’s a great approach to managing the risk and fear of WOL. If an employee is hesitant to discuss challenges and relationships openly, give them the opportunity to narrate about something safe. This will build comfort for deeper sharing in the future.

Areas of Opportunity + Challenge for WOL in the Enterprise

WOL can lead to employee-originated innovation, but getting it established and helping it grow beyond small teams will be a path that quickly encounters trouble from organizational structures and hierarchy. In researching informal networks in the enterprise, Harvard Business Review found potential for innovation existed in employee communication channels that were not formalized. They found that active shaping and cultivation of those networks by companies would produce innovations vs. letting social networks grow without structure. These findings are areas of opportunity for WOL to be used in combination with human social networks: harness organic innovation by facilitating the practice of Working Out Loud amongst members of these networks.

Managers, on the other hand can present micro-level obstacles to the success of WOL. A 2015 study by Gallup showed that 50% of employees leave their companies sometime in their career because of a bad boss. Conversely, managers can be key enablers for WOL. In these examples, managers can help model generosity, amplify to make their team members’ efforts visible, best enable purposeful discovery, and model a growth mindset for others around them (hopefully inside an active enterprise social network).

Who #WOL'd It Best?

With as much fun as we've poked a International WOL Week, we hope you've found the series valuable and inspiring. We want to know - which WOL is your style? Are you a World of Leopards person, or do you prefer the fuzzy softness of Shetland Wool Week? Maybe riding the Wheels of Love?

Thanks for sharing our Working Out Loud journey with the Talk Social to Me team. Happy collaborating!


Celebrating #WOL and Women of Leisure

As we sashay right into our first day of #WOLweek, we celebrate those ladies who best embrace living the #WOL lifestyle: bon bons in the morning, a cocktail at mid-day, and a bit of afternoon sun by the pool. It's high time that we properly acknowledge all of the women and their leisurely activities that sparked the powerful global social media trend called #WOLweek. Won't you join us in the festivities?

"But wait," you might be thinking right now. "It's Women of Leisure week? Is that what all of this #WOL chatter is about? That can't be."

Migrating from Jive to Yammer

Every few months, new shiny chat-apps and social technologies roar onto the enterprise collaboration scene. They force a lot of tough choices when it comes to determining the right mix in your collaboration landscape: how do you combine legacy toolsets, evolving use cases and micro-purpose apps brought into the mix by employees? It’s no wonder that companies often find themselves questioning whether they are using the right tools, the best combination of tools, and even switching between tools on a fairly regular basis. The employee collaboration experience is ever-changing, which makes our jobs as technologists and community managers a constant work-in-progress.

Making the Switch from Jive to Workplace by Facebook

With the recent acquisition of Jive Software by ESW Capital and the Aurea family of companies, Talk Social to Me has fielded many calls from companies who are wondering if they should consider changing vendors when their contracts are up. We love Jive's product and especially its people, who are some of the best collaboration pros in the industry. But we also are acutely aware of what happens during an acquisition, and we realize that many decisions are now out of the hands of the Jive team that we know and trust.

14 Hacks to Reverse Employee Community Engagement Decline

Does your company have an employee community or enterprise social network that is seeing a decline in engagement? Engagement decline is a serious problem that community managers have the power to address (or prevent if your community isn’t yet introduced!). Whether your engagement decline happens in the first two weeks or the first 100 days, it’s an early warning signal that you have more work to do to make the community indispensable for employees.

SBH Health System Employee Community Transformed with Workplace by Facebook

SBH Health System Employee Community Transformed with Workplace by Facebook

In healthcare making a difference for one person has network effects. For SBH Health System (SBH) in the Bronx, New York, implementing a Workplace by Facebook online employee community has produced several benefits for the hospital. In just 4 months the online community has...

Best Practices for Employee Communities in Highly Regulated Industries

Best Practices for Employee Communities in Highly Regulated Industries

If you’re launching or (or possibly already have) an employee community in a highly-regulated industry, the myriad regulations that concern your leadership are definitely challenges. But even in highly regulated industries such as healthcare, financial services, or education, employee communities are still viable.

Upcoming Webinars: How to Measure Behavior in Your Enterprise Social Network

Upcoming Webinars: How to Measure Behavior in Your Enterprise Social Network

If you’re running your company’s enterprise social network (ESN), you will inevitably be asked about the success of the platform—are people using it? How often and what for? What value are we really getting out of this thing, anyway?

How White Labs Uses Workplace by Facebook During Company Expansion

How White Labs Uses Workplace by Facebook During Company Expansion

Whether it’s introducing a new product, conducting an acquisition or expanding a brand’s footprint, it’s not rare for companies to experience growing pains. White Labs, an international yeast fermentation company based in San Diego, is no exception.

Introduce Working Out Loud in Your Employee Community

Introduce Working Out Loud in Your Employee Community

Have you seen people online talking about “Working Out Loud?” Maybe you’ve stumbled across a hashtag such as #WOL. What is Working Out Loud, anyway?

A concept originally created by author John Stepper, WOL is building meaningful relationships with others based on generosity and shared purpose. In short – the idea is to give your time and energy to others openly, without expecting anything in return.

One Surefire Way to Drive Engagement in an Employee Community: Take an Idea and Make it Happen

Ok, senior leaders. This one’s for you.

We get a lot of questions about how to drive engagement in a company’s enterprise social network. Companies put a lot of work into building fancy launch campaigns, creating fun reward programs for Champions, and printing posters about the benefits of the online employee community. These activities are valuable, and they create excitement, and they signal that the collaboration party is getting started.

However, there's a better way to foster the long-term adoption of and engagement in your community, and it doesn't involve a team of designers or event planners. Ready for it?