How to kickstart your enterprise social network – the less frustrating way

Doctor diagnosing a business problem

Your enterprise social network can be a solution to a real pain. Find the pain.

Introducing an internal social network like Yammer in your organisation can be an exciting and frustrating experience at the same time.

At first it’s exciting! After launching the network you watch the user numbers go up: the first 10 registered users, the first 100, the first 1000. Woohoo! You’ve hit a milestone! Time for cake.

Then comes the frustration. Within couple of months you realise that only a handful of people actually use the network. The rest are “too busy”. And even though your senior executives might have given the network their blessing, they refuse to show the way by posting there themselves.

You come up with all sorts of fun engagement activities. You bribe people with cupcakes. You give out prizes.

But all your efforts fail to turn the network into a daily habit for people.

This is an all too common scenario. Fortunately it doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

While every organisation is different, there are certain tactics you can use to introduce an internal social network in a way that doesn’t frustrate you to tears.

Problems, sweet problems

I suggest you focus on problems. On the pain people feel in their daily work life. Forget employee engagement initiatives schminiatives. Forget communication strategies (*gasp*). Forget one-off fun stuff.

Look into problems at several levels:
● team level
● project level
● organisational level (the stuff that keeps senior managers awake at night)

How to find these problems? By listening people complain!

Complaints and gripes can be found in many places, but you don’t have to go overboard with your research – a quick and dirty fact finding mission is enough. And remember, you only need couple of key problems, not a comprehensive analysis of what’s not working in your organisation.

You can find problems for example by going through the results of an employee survey, by doing your own survey, by talking to people on their coffee breaks, by having a chat with senior managers etc.

If you find a problem that seems to link high level and frontline, then you’re in luck. For example if your senior managers say that customer satisfaction is low and must be addressed and then you hear from staff that information from frontline sales staff never reach product development you can ask yourself whether these issues are linked. If they are, it’s a “super problem” that both senior managers and frontline staff care about.

Chances are there is a communication issue that can be partly solved with an enterprise social network.

By focusing on these first use cases you can make sure the ESN becomes part of an actual work process in one part of the company. You have much easier time to get more people to use the tool when you have couple of succesful use cases under your belt.

Don’t worry, you get to use your comms skills. You can for example later become an organisational curator where your comms skills will certainly come in handy. But focusing on helping people with a problem is usually a good first step.

But.. but.. my job is to implement the communication strategy!

I bet ultimately your job is to help the organisation to serve its customers (and make money in the process). Who knows, maybe there’s a bit in the comms strategy that links with this goal..

But seriously.

I know hunting for problems doesn’t sound like a job for a communications or intranet specialist. But it could be and it should be as there often is a communication problem buried inside the issue people complain about. And it’s a great opportunity to show senior managers how useful you are to the organisation and how clued up you are about digital communication.

Three workshops

You can do some real life problem hunting at my full day workshop in Dublin on 10 March and in Birmingham later in May (with the lovely people from Intranet Now).

And if you’re heading to the IntraTeam Event in Copenhagen in early March, check out my workshop and talk there also. It’s in English (thankfully I don’t have to do it Danish, that would have been a disaster).

– Virpi

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