11 Strategies for a Successful Enterprise Social Network Launch

February 13, 2014by Shona LepisEmployee Engagement

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We sometimes struggle a bit with our ESN here at Vignette. Email is a familiar tool that we all reach for first like a familiar old jacket. But I think we can all agree our in-boxes are overflowing, and email can be a huge time suck. It has been my personal mission to get more folks at Vignette engaged on our ESN. Engagement is a slow process, but we’re making progress. It’s nice to know when I find a great resource online I can quickly shoot it out the whole team and it’s forever easily accessible and not lost in an in-box never to be found again. We use our ESN to share new projects that have wrapped, give kudos to the team for a job well done, share happy client feedback (that always makes our day), great resources we come across, and last but not least funny tidbits we find online.

2014 is definitely the age of Enterprise Social Networks (ESN). They are a core strategic tool to facilitate two way communications on teams,  transmit leadership messages, and increase employee engagement. We have compiled our 11 Strategies to kick-start your ESN.

The Dismal Record of Build it and They Will Come

Oleson cites research by Gartner showing that the “Provide and Pray” method of launching an enterprise social network (where a company deploys a social platform believing that adoption will be as contagious inside the organization as social media has been outside) has a terrible record of success. Over 90% of social business deployments will fail without linkage to a solid business purpose. (Source: 5 Things to Have in Place Before a Social Platform Launch, Tembo Social)

Top 11 Tips for a Successful ESN Launch

  1. Focus on Culture and Leadership Buy-in
    Yammer CSM Brian Murray says that executive leadership participation is paramount to the success of any internal community, and we agree.
  2. Have a Kick off Engagement Campaign
    It takes a little encouragement to get your team to use a new tool, so develop a kick-off campaign. Have an official launch event to build excitement and to provide next steps toward using the network. A launch event should bolster initial adoption, which creates momentum that leads to greater adoption and modeling of desired behaviors. Follow it up with official re-launch events to introduce the platform to new users and to remind existing users of its power. (Source: Engaged Community Is A Healthy Community – Best Practices In Internal Social Networking, Yammer.)
  3. Start Small
    I always recommend that companies start small with social, then build. This might mean starting with a small workgroup or by taking on a clear, manageable initiative. Gartner points out the way to grow your social network inside the company is to look for ways to deploy small and “build bridges.” For instance, you could start your social platform around an education campaign about healthy lifestyles. Invite people to discuss their experiences improving their diet, walking at lunch, etc. This type of conversation easily bridges to peer recognition in other areas at work. (Source: Six Strategies for a Successful Social Enterprise, Tembo Social.)
  4. Establish a Credo/Guidlines
    Think about creating a “ESN Credo,” which establishes the rules of the road. The Credo should take an informal, yet professional, tone vs. the “command and control” approach.
  5. Have a Community Leader
    Communities are like gardens; when you water and invest in them, they flourish.  The best gardens are tended by attentive gardeners. Appoint someone to watch your ESN, track trends and own analytics.  If you follow our advice and follow your ESN users much the same way you follow users of your consumer-facing digital properties, you will gain some amazing insights.
  6. Establish Ambassadors/Evangelists
    We would recommend that you surface like-minded champions and seek out employees across the business to help guide others. It’s good to have a cross mix of functions, titles, and experience levels—especially in huge, highly matrixed organizations. Your adoption strategy needs to start as soon as you have selected a platform and are planning the implementation phase. Once you have selected a platform and are working on the implementation plan you need to start developing a plan to drive adoption. A good rule of thumb is to start small with a few conversations among people who are already engaged and eager to build. This team will become your “conversation evangelists” as you roll out the platform to a wider audience.  (Source: Six Strategies for a Successful Social Enterprise, Tembo Social.)
  7. Front-Load Relevant Content for Community Draw
    Seed the network with useful information to quickly show value to users. ESNs are only as valuable as the information that users can get from them. With a critical mass of activity, static information will morph into conversations. (Source: Deploying A Successful Enterprise Social Network: Best Practices From The Field, Yammer.)
  8. Tune into What’s In it for Me? (WIIFM)
    Everyone’s favorite radio station is WIIFM, otherwise known as “what’s in it for me?” Make sure your policy and best practices help your internal constituencies do their jobs, and make them into rockstars. Users know clearly “what’s in it for me,” when it comes to the social platform. Your most valuable participants want to get work done, they don’t want to mess around with a time-sink. There needs to be clear, measurable outcomes to using the platform:  “What’s in it for us.” (Source: Engaged Community Is A Healthy Community – Best Practices In Internal Social Networking, Yammer.)
  9. Focus on People
    As great as ESN is as a platform, it is people that make everything work. It’s people understanding a common purpose and the correct perception of value that drives the successful creation and operation of online communities. Like a good dinner party where people come for the steaks and stay for the conversation, people will be drawn to your conversational platform by the kinds of interactions they can have with other people in the enterprise. Feature bells and whistles don’t draw people. People draw people. Your conversational programs, and not the software itself, will be your best path to rapid adoption and growth. (Source: Six Strategies for a Successful Social Enterprise, Tembo Social.)
  10. Define Success Up-Front
    In order for your launch to be successful, you need to have a clear picture of what success means. For instance, if one of your business goals is to improve employee engagement, you’ll want to define behaviors that lead to engagement. Are people using the channel frequently, are they having meaningful, productive conversations, are they using the system to recognize each other’s accomplishments?  (Source: Six Strategies for a Successful Social Enterprise, Tembo Social.)
  11. Don’t Forget to Track your Success
    Create a topic In your ESN, E.g. #TeamWin, and add to it any conversation demonstrating business value for easy access.
We’d love to know how you use an ESN at your organization?
What tips and tricks have you used to keep your ESN thriving? Please share your comments in the feedback section below.

Shona Lepis

Shona is responsible for Vignette’s marketing practice, covering everything from agency brand aesthetics to positioning, managing the agency’s web and social presence, content marketing/blog, and supports business development’s needs. Shona began her career as a designer, managing a boutique design studio that specialized in hand-crafted brand identities for clients in both the US and Europe. She worked with clients to transform their vision into reality with creative solutions from brand identity to custom website design, digital marketing, and print collateral. Shona’s experiences as a creative influences her approach to marketing, using data-driven methodologies to deliver authentic brand experiences. Shona is an active member of the Portland design community and has served on the board as Communications Director of the Portland chapter of AIGA and a founding member of Branding Salon, a consortium of brand, design, development and marketing professionals.