by Eric Berridge

Going social part II: Fight for the users

Aug 16, 20125 mins
Emerging TechnologyIT Leadership

In the new business landscape IT must, as Tron would say, “fight for the users,” making the technology serve people, and not the other way around. This holds doubly true in the realm of social media, which many companies are leveraging to connect globally dispersed workforces and clients.

CIOs implementing platforms that facilitate enterprise-wide collaboration face the same challenge that they face every time they roll out any new application — engagement. You may be tempted to think that giving your people the tools would be incentive enough. After all, you’re offering them a chance to essentially mimic behavior they enact in their spare time. However, assuming that they’re going to engage with your social tools just because they use Facebook is like thinking they’ll watch company videos because they like to watch TV. In reality, if you don’t totally wrap the experience around their preferences and needs, you’ll have no more luck getting them to use your tools than you would trying to get them to watch a really bad TV series.

Reasons for disengagement may be as varied as your employees themselves — too slammed, not sure how to get started, unclear about the rules, don’t have anything worth sharing, don’t really care…the list goes on. The bottom line is that you may have to do quite a bit of coaxing and hand-holding to get things moving. Last time we recommended using enlightened self-interest alongside instant gratification to drive engagement. Picking up where we left off, here are a few more guidelines to follow when rolling out a social enterprise program aimed at wrapping the experience around the user and bringing your people onboard:

Tip #1: Make it easier than “liking” a video of a cat falling into the toilet. To succeed, your people have to view this as fun, and the bar for that has been set pretty high on the consumer side (you’ve got people sharing the cat videos, and then the dogs, and don’t even get me started on the chimpanzees). Aside from offering an attractive platform, you’ve got to make it easy. How easy? Easy enough that someone who feels that they don’t have enough time to take a lunch break will think it an effortless task to share a piece of your company’s content through a social channel.

Using game dynamics to drive adoption can be a very effective tactic, but I caution you to make the game as effortless as possible — think less Warcraft and more Angry Birds. For example, if you’re offering points for someone to post a company blog through a social channel, you should also consider implementing functionality that both feeds content to them that they’re likely to find personally compelling, and enables them to post to multiple accounts within one or two clicks.

Tip #2: Show them the light. Even employees who completely get the value of your program and have every intention of engaging may not know where to start. They may be totally fluent in social media, yet unsure how to engage on behalf of your company. For that matter, the idea of using social media for a concrete goal may be completely foreign. You’ve got to train them.

Don’t, however, make the mistake of sending your team to some off-site seminar on “how to be social.” The allure of social media is how it melds into other aspects of our lives — social media training should be no different. Research is beginning to show that the most effective learning is informal — i.e. training that your team can take in bite-sized chunks while on the go, through a variety of platforms and delivery methods (videos, SlideRockets, Prezi presentations, etc.). In general, anything lasting more than 5 minutes is going to fall flat in this age of waning attention spans and constant interruption.

Tip #3: Don’t give up on the cat video devotees. Aim for 100% adoption, but don’t make it your immediate goal. A few months in, gauge who is participating and who isn’t, and iterate your plan to get stragglers onboard.

For example, while you’re going to see plenty of people engaged in the program that you fully anticipated would be early-adopters, were there any surprises? Were there any team members who caught fire contrary to your expectations? If so, find out what did it for them, and try to leverage that success to get others onboard. Conversely, is there someone who you would have bet the farm would be your star pupil, yet has so far failed to engage? Someone who posts incessantly photos of their cat dressed up like Batman, yet hasn’t re-tweeted a single company-related comment? If so, do your homework and find out why they’re not engaged, and what would make it both fun and worthwhile for them.