The SOCIAL Shift

Observations on how social connectivity is changing the workplace. And the world. Views expressed here are my own.
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and other intranet trends from @NNgroup.

The debate over whether social software can and should replace email continues, with an example from IBM added to the known example of the Atos campaign to end internal emails.

There are some good resources here. I particularly highlight the Intranet Benchmarking Forum which I’ve found to be an invaluable resource. I’ve met some great professionals and the meetings and resources they provide to members are varied, detailed, well-researched and extremely helpful.

Last Tuesday at around 4:45 p.m., I looked down at my iPhone. The battery indicator was at 16 percent, begging to be recharged. I had tweeted, taken notes, added contacts, snapped pics and even checked back into the office a couple of times. And then we hit the bar for some informal networking.

Fortunately, the preceding excuse for Jive to pay for drinks half-day session with Jive users based in the northeast was actually productive. Lots of users shared their insights, challenges, successes and lessons learned in a dynamic, energetic format that deftly blended presentation and participation. The result was a highly engaging and productive half-day session of Jive users. As I replay the event in my mind, there are 5 things that stick out as important lessons to remember whether you are presiding over a mature community or are still working to gain the internal OK to pursue such an option:

  1.  Help people achieve their goals – stated and unstated – This includes business objectives, workflow and process innovation, team-building goals or even strategic positioning within the organization. If you help your users derive value from the tool, the case for them to use it will be self-evident.
  2. “Measure what you can affect, affect what you can measure” – Focusing your efforts on items where you can quantify impact helps you tell a compelling story about the viability of your tool. Identify those areas and spend your energy and resources to make them work. And then let people know!
  3. Top down, meet bottom up – It’s critical to have executive-level support for an initiative that requires this level of organizational investment. But without people using and benefit the tool, you’re left with an attractive shell. Find and work closely with advocates to build solid use cases early so that senior level advocacy and grassroots action can meet.
  4. Know your organization – You (hopefully!) have a strong understanding of how your organization works. You can use this knowledge to your advantage. Target the high profile business unit or leader. Find “friends” with influence and clout (and maybe Klout if you’re lucky) to drive utilization and champion your work.
  5. Surface great content – As users begin to share great content, be sure to give them the spotlight. Feature their content prominently for other users to see. Publically and privately thank them for their contributions and encourage them to share more. This will help to make your site a destination for expertise and interaction that is related to the work that your employees do daily.

Just like my iPhone, when we as social evangelists do what we are supposed to do, our battery may get drained. The nearly empty battery can be written on our tired brows or well-used, stained coffee mug on our desks. That’s why gatherings like this are important. We can connect with each other and recharge each other to lead our organizations into increasing levels of productivity and innovation. I look forward to helping employees achieve goals, measuring effectiveness and sharing stories and great content. And I look forward to being plugged in at a future gathering to regain my strength.

Launching and maintaining an internal social network at The McGraw-Hill Companies has been an exciting learning experience. In my “The Life of a Community Manager” series, I will highlight key aspects that have been central in my experience as a community manager. 
“If you build it, they will come.”
While it worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, chances are it won’t work for your internal social network. Our team has taken this on as a mantra of sorts as we guide users who are looking to manage internal communities on the site. But it has also been a driving tenet for for our team and for me personally. In fact, we flipped it to clearly state our approach:
“Just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come.”
So the question remains: how do you get people in your organization to use an internal social network? While there will be some people who intrinsically make the connection from the benefits of a social tool and how that can make them faster and more efficient, many won’t. Your challenge as a community manager will be to convince the detractors that don’t necessarily understand or use social media much or those who just don’t like change. If you can convince some in this demographic to use the tool, you have a great shot at gain wider adoption and success with your solution. Here are three tips to get them on your side:

  1. Understand the business requirements - Starting the conversation with all the options your site has available is a mistake. Instead, you first want to listen. Understand what requirements the client has, what his/her goals are and what employees need to do to achieve them. Having your potential user speaking in terms that are most comfortable to them - their business - is the first step to winning him/her over.
  2. Identify the goals - Once you understand the context, narrow the conversation. I like to ask the client one question: what are the three things you want your people to do when they get to your site? That usually leads to a conversation about sharing, collaborating, connecting, archiving, etc. Now that your client has clearly identified his/her goals, you can target the functionality in those areas.
  3. Articulate how using the site will help them reach their goals - You’ve spent most of this conversation listening and asking open-ended questions. But now you’re talking about the site. Be sure to articulate how the site will get them to their desired end state. You love this stuff and could go on for hours. Don’t do that or you will lose the client. Tie it back to how s/he will be able to do something with the tool that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible or would have been too expensive or time-consuming.
These steps don’t always happen in one 30-minute meeting or presentation. It often takes people time to digest and understand what you’re sharing. Give them the time they need and answer the questions they may have along the way. Believe me, it’s worth it. Some of our strongest champions are not from the pool of social media-savvy early adopters, but rather the group that was on the fence about “this social stuff” and needed some convincing. In the long run, their endorsement carries more weight than those perceived as social media mavens.
So if you’re going to build it, make sure you invest the time and effort to get them to come and use it.

Karen Lee discusses the launch of the SAS employee social network with Marcia Rhodes from World at Work. In this interview, she touches on many of the key aspects of launching an employee social network. This is a great interview. I wonder what solution SAS uses for their internal network.

Launching and maintaining an internal social network at The McGraw-Hill Companies has been an exciting learning experience. In my “The Life of a Community Manager” series, I will highlight key aspects that have been central in my experience as a community manager.

Customer support plays a key role in adoption and engagement of an internal social network. It ensures that users have the base of knowledge to effectively use the tool. It also sets the tone for how the solution will be perceived by the organization. Great customer support in the commercial space can make someone a customer for life. In the same way, a negative experience can create a vehement, vocal detractor. The stakes are similar for a new initiative inside a company. Be sure to provide memorable customer support experiences that will delight your customers and create people who can be advocates for the solution.

While I’m not an expert in customer support, I have learned a few lessons on the topic that will serve well for other community managers as they seek to drive adoption and engagement within their communities: be responsive, create documentation to aid your efforts and use the community.
  1. Be responsive – You need to answer people’s questions in a timely fashion. That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to monitor question in real-time. Community managers should monitor questions 2-3 times a day. That may increase when you first launch your solution or if you introduce significant new features. If you are still learning the tool in the when you launch (like my team and I were), or if someone asks a really complex question, that’s ok. Just be transparent that you need to look into that aspect of the functionality to answer their question. That way, they will know that you heard them and that you’re working on it.
  2. Create documentation – There will undoubtedly be questions that you will get repeatedly. This may seem annoying, particularly if you are being responsive. You may feel like you’re answering the same question over and over. Moreover, you may feel like you’re wasting time explaining the same process five times a day. To save time and your sanity, create documentation that explains the steps or actions to commonly asked questions. When people ask those questions, just cut and paste the response, or send them the link. You can also use your site to this end. Create a place where people can ask questions on the site so those conversations are archived and available to all users. They can serve as great customer support aids and may even prevent questions all together as people find them via search or by browsing the site. It also allows for other users to answer questions. Which leads us to number three…
  3. Use the community – It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone as a community manager. You have a whole community of people who can help you! And that includes your customer support responsiveness, too. As your early adopters gain aptitude with the site, they will have the knowledge and experience to answer questions from their peers who are still learning. Give them the chance to demonstrate their knowledge if they aren’t doing it naturally themselves. This can save you time on answering some of the more basic questions and spend your time and energy on other higher value activities.

Why Customer Support Matters
There’s a learning curve associated with any new tool. That reality takes on a different life in a professional environment. While some people will experiment, there’s a large portion of the population that won’t for a variety of reasons. Reluctant to look inept in front of the entire company, that segment will seek help. If they get it, they may have the confidence to use the tool. But if they don’t they may opt out very early on, or even become vocal detractors, making it all the more challenging to get them, and others, engaged.

Customer support is critical to a thriving enterprise social community. When we launched our internal social network, we had a variety of questions that ran the gamut from very basic tasks (e.g. updating profile, uploading documents) to more complex usage issues (e.g. content migration from existing sites, strategies to drive membership). Answering these questions, particularly early on, will play a seminal role in determining how much (or how little) employees will use the resource.

I’m continue to be intrigued by email gangsters. The people who will say things very aggressively via email that they would never say to someone’s face.

I’ve noticed that this practice can sometimes extend to internal social networks. People who are passionate about what they do and the beliefs that fuel that work feel very strongly about their point of view. On rare occasions, that passion can manifest in aggressive and sometimes negative comments toward others.

As a community manager, I have a few reactions to this act among coworkers:

  1. Excitement - While it may sound odd, I’m glad that people in the community are passionate about what they do. That passion will demand excellence and fuel innovation.
  2. Concern - I’m concerned that the people feel they need to resort to this tactic to prove a point. I also don’t want the recipient of this aggressive behavior to feel discouraged from participating in the future.
  3. Compelled to act - I realized that I have the power to shape situations like these. A reminder to be respectful can often steer the conversation back to safe territory. I will intervene to ensure that all parties respect their coworkers on the network.

For me, the simplest measure is a question: would you say what you typed to the person’s face? If the answer is “No” or even if you’re unsure, then you probably shouldn’t type it.


The problem with your company’s intranet.

My parents kind of know what I do every day at work.

Kind of.

They know that McGraw-Hill has this internal social network and that I’m the community manager. But I’m not sure they quite grasp all that the role of enterprise community manager encompasses.

So when I came across this excellent description on Yammer of what an internal community manager does, I sent it to my parents. I thought it clearly articulated some of the key areas of responsibility for a community manager.

The concept of community management is important for any internal social network. I, and other community managers at all kinds of companies, work to ensure that the community is thriving and enables employees to share freely with their colleagues. That is the core that drives all actions, be that selling the solution to business leaders, moderating discussions or linking employees with similar concepts.

Hopefully, after reading the article, my parents will know what it is I do everyday.