Community Management

Enterprise Social Network Adoption: 3 Reasons Why It Stinks

So you bought into the buzz that an enterprise social network will transform your business and make your employees fabulously productive. You’re collaborating! And it’s going to change everything!

But wait — shouldn’t those fancy analytics show a continuous upward trend in adoption, logins, and usage? Why is the graph slowly trending down? Why is nobody posting? This was supposed to be the Best Thing Ever, the magical technology unicorn that would valiantly sweep away your dependence upon email. But now, 6 months into your deployment, it’s clear that your enterprise social network adoption stinks.

What the heck is going on?

Vendors and customers alike tend to focus on rollout strategies to ensure successful adoption of the enterprise social network. Jive advocates targeting groups with measurable business value, and Huddle promotes ensuring front-line usability and time-saving to ensure success. These are critical indeed, but adoption can also be impacted by much smaller and seemingly trivial practices and norms in the community.

Today, I will address three key treatable challenges that you might see a few months post-rollout that are reducing your community’s adoption and value. I won’t address major problems, like selecting the wrong technology, nor will I cover every potential pitfall. But the problems described below are common, and can be fixed with relative ease, reigniting a spark in your enterprise social network.

Problem 1: The Double-Double Dilemma

Mmmmmm, In N Out.

The best burgers and fries in the country. In N Out specializes in quality burgers and even has a secret menu (where ordering something “animal style” gets you grilled onions and extra sauce). You can only find In N Outs on the West Coast, though. Its allure is in part driven by its scarcity – because it only serves fresh food, the company only operates in certain areas. It’s a cult favorite amongst left coasters and a must-visit attraction for tourists. But what if In N Out were like McDonald’s – always available and on every city block? There would be no magic to their famous Double Double. It’s all about supply and demand – In N Out and your enterprise social network. People visit In N Out because they get something that’s high quality and enjoyable ONLY from this restaurant. Your community is no different. If you post a “Message from the President” on the intranet, and email it to everyone, AND post to your social network, there’s no scarcity around the information. If you are posting important information to your enterprise social network in addition to several other locations, users have little incentive to log in and read about what’s happening.

The Lesson: Scarcity Breeds Consumption – Post Exclusive Information in the Community

Problem 2: The Santa Claus Conundrum

If you grew up celebrating Christmas, it’s likely that you were bribed for good behavior with the promise of gifts and candy from Santa Claus. But if you were bad, then your stocking would be filled with lumps of coal. I was on my best behavior for a good 30 days prior to Christmas to ensure that Santa put me on the good list; my antagonizing of siblings and resistance to chores dropped considerably. Now think about how your employees are measured and rewarded in the company. Do you have 360 degree reviews? Laborious evaluation and goal-setting sessions? How, if at all, are employees recognized for their contributions to an enterprise social network? They probably aren’t, just like they aren’t recognized for sending emails, attending meetings and jumping on conference calls. The difference is, you’re trying to alter both behavior and culture when introducing an enterprise social network. Companies can’t treat them like “just another tool” when adoption is crucial. There is a huge let down when an employee believes that he or she has made great contributions by participating in knowledge-sharing and ideating inside your enterprise social network, but then traditional forms of value-measurement fail to capture those inputs. You’re basically giving them a huge lump of coal after an extended period of good behavior.

The Lesson: Recognize Collaborative Behaviors Formally and Informally

Problem 3: The Honey Badger Paradox

Remember a few years ago when we all got a kick out of joking, “Honey Badger Don’t Care!” with our colleagues? The Honey Badger viral video was “THE” topic of water cooler discussions for about a week. It’s likely that someone shared the link with you via email, or maybe IM, since Honey Badger’s heyday was before most companies had an enterprise social network. But today, should a goofy viral video come on the scene, it would likely be posted to multiple groups and locations on your enterprise social network. Many companies would shun this behavior – the posting of irrelevant videos and nonsense in a business social network. After all, we’re here to get work done, right? Sort of. There is a need to drive adoption and camaraderie amongst early social network users, and so we encourage them to post, but yet we also sometimes are too harsh limiting what can be posted. Every company needs to determine the right blend between work and personal posting, but they also need to realize that more personal posting can be acceptable as the users begin to learn and use a new tool. Expect users to discuss business topics and make it easy for them to do so, but don’t halt personal postings unless they cause harm or appear inappropriate. Let the users build trust in each other and the community to develop norms.

The Lesson: Grin and Bear the LOLs…in Moderation

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