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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I woke up to a hyperactive phone this morning. It was vibrating incessantly because an internal crowdsourcing initiative launched overnight for me (during the day in Asia). They generated about 700 ideas in the first 7 hours! Exciting to see the high level of interest. It will be interesting to review the positive outcomes and lessons to learn from this latest deployment.

and other intranet trends from @NNgroup.

Last week, I had the honor of speaking at Diversity Inc.’s Innovation Fest. You may ask why I was talking social intranet at a diversity event. I was part of a presentation with Terri Austin and Olga Kozak where we talked about ways in which McGraw-Hill is fostering digital innovation within our culture.

My piece of the presentation focuses on how our social intranet has been central in increased collaboration and innovation. Click to the 16:25 mark to see my section.

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.

That satisfaction of giving joy to others is available to all community managers almost every day. How? In the form of content. Our team realized that people were producing lots of great business content. Functional tips, market insights, competitive intelligence, lessons learned and the list goes on. They were taking time to write it and I was reading it, but the people that may benefit the most from it weren’t always finding it.

So I took on the (ahem unofficial ahem) role of Chief Content Curator. In doing so, it was my duty to give air to the great content that users were generating and to give credit and exposure to the thought leaders that were producing it. So we reserved a space on our homepage that was for user-generated content. The only rules were that it needed to be original (at least part of it), informative and compelling. I would browse for content 2-3 times a week and would post 5-7 items (blog posts, discussions, documents) that best fit the criteria. This turned out to be a great move.

Content creators loved it! They were trying to boost their readership anyway. By putting their pieces right on the homepage, their readership would double, triple and quadruple. And in many cases, this sparked meaningful conversations about important business issues.

Employees loved it! Those who like to be in the know or are passionate about a given issue or company news were able to stay informed more easily. The intellectual exchange and the ability to find people and content that matters to them.

We loved it! Using employee-generated content and surfacing it prominently on our Intranet homepage made the site even more relevant and functional for employees that were adjusting to social functionality as the core of their intranet.

Each time I update this, I tag the “contributors” in my status to alert them that their content is on the homepage.

I think there are three things that community managers can do to give the gift of content to the members of their community:

  1. Find great content- Regardless of the adoption level in your community, there are some people who are producing great, insightful and thought provoking content. So block off 30 minutes and browse or search for that content. It there’s lots of it or you have higher utilization, you may have to spend more time on this or ask people to submit content that they’d like to see get broader exposure. Regardless of how you do it, it’s to yours and e community’s benefit to find a way to identify the exemplary pieces of content.
  2. Surface it for readers- Remember, your users are busy doing their jobs, so they may not have the time to see the great content. Or they mat have just missed it. Find a prominent place where you can place links to the content that you found. That will make it easier for your busy users to take 30 seconds to scan the list, click on a link or two and bookmark something for a deeper read when they have time. I’ve seen great content go from 0 comments, 0 likes and a handful of views to top-liked in the course of 24 hours or less from this act.
  3. Connect users with content that matters to them- Very quickly, you will get to know the people in your community and the type of content that matters to them. You can (and should) help users find the content that matters to them. I will contact them with a direct message linking to the content and suggesting that they take look and leave a comment. Other times, I will comment and tag that user in the post. Your intervention can help build connections in your community that can drive innovations and partnerships.

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.

I had the good fortune of meeting John at the recent Jive Northeast User Group event. He was very clear about how he sells the importance of a more social, collaborative Intranet, evidenced by the excerpt below.


“We’re very busy with clients. We don’t have time for other things.” “How much does it cost? We’re very focused on profitability.”

Towards the end, I made it personal.

I asked people in the branch how they would know about great jobs in other branches. And how would anyone besides their manager know about them and their skills?

There was a pause. A young woman answered, somewhat wistfully, “Some people work in the same branch for 30 years.”

So I talked about how collaborating online makes their work visible. How it gives them control over their reputation – who they are, what they do, and how well they do it – and unlocks access to good jobs.

Source: John Stepper

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.

Even though I’m not a CEO (yet!) I feel the same way about the way I’ve been able to get to better know my company and the people that work here.

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.