This is Your Brain on ESN

April 8, 2014by Dave StawinskiTechnology & Platforms


Social media addiction. What is it?

The human brain gets a measurable buzz from social sharing. This helps make social media habit-forming. When we disclose something about ourselves to others, our pleasure centers see increased blood-flow causing them to “light up” on an MRI scan.

So, posting something about yourself on Facebook makes you feel happy. Your friend clicking “Like” on what you posted makes her feel happy. You seeing her “Like” feels happy… Biochemically.

How does this help us with employee engagement?

Consumer-based social networks like Facebook, are habit-forming engines of social and consumer engagement. Your Enterprise Social Network (ESN) (Yammer, Jive, Chatter, etc.) is based on them, and wants to be a social network optimized to promote employee engagement.

So your ESN will hook your employees on engagement? Addict them to productivity? Create a virtuous cycle? Yes. You can do that, if you can get your people to form virtuous habits. That’s the meaty part. ESN use among our clients seems to break down into two approaches.

Approach #1: Non Habit-forming

ESN potency can be temporary. Take the example of an ESN launched to support an event. New users are snared by the buzz of the event, and the need to access information related to it (travel info, keynote schedules, activities, media, polls, etc.). Then the event ends, and those temporarily hyper-engaged users move on to the next party. So, maybe to build and sustain a truly valuable ESN, we need to focus less on buzz and more on a steady burn (with occasional fireworks).

Approach #2: “Talk to your doctor if…”

Rather than “the first one’s free,” here’s a strategic way to launch (or re-launch) your ESN. It accounts for both the habit-forming power of social networks, and the need for your people to accomplish something lasting with theirs.

1. A Daily Habit: All new users should be asked to do two things on the ESN daily (as in “every day”). Each morning, they will post a 1-2 sentence summary of the best thing they accomplished, or witnessed, on the previous day. Then, over the course of the day, they will check in on what their workmates, team members, managers and staff posted and like, comment, and share them. They should spend no more than 10 minutes on this. It doesn’t take a genius to predict a little competition might kick in. Meanwhile, the sharing means those pleasure centers are lighting up, creating engagement addiction.

2. Hey, I Think They Like It!: Intermediate employees should be coached by their managers to take advantage of the ESN as a collaboration space. Depending on your culture, it may or may not make sense to actually replace email with ESN posts. Just ask users to extend their daily posting habits (see #1, above) to cover the value they created that week. Software developers set a good example here. They often keep blogs to inform others what they are working on in case their stuff might be valuable elsewhere in the company. Maybe your project teams can appoint a blogger to help share the value they create.

3. Recognize You Have ESN: If you have analytics to mine, use them to see who gets the most attention, and consider elevating those people via recognition. Something as simple as positive post comment from leadership can serve to reinforce the virtuous cycle we’ve created. No analytics? Read the feeds. You’ll get a feel for who’s getting attention. Show them their habit generates value.

4. The Kingpins: Your leadership should show their faces on the ESN, too. Use big announcements as event posts. Give yourpeople sneak previews into new thinking. Rally the troops. Encourage your leaders to build their social brands and to read the comments they get. They need happy brains, too.

Choose the right ESN implementation for your organization

These ideas can be applied in different ways. Ultimately, do what’s best for you to achieve your desired business objectives, your employees, and your organization. Side effects may include lower attrition, a bump in revenue, and mild euphoria.

Any questions?

Dave Stawinski

With nearly 20 years of production experience working for leading digital agencies such as DNA Studios, BLITZ and Second Story, Dave has managed a large number of diverse projects and teams. Over the years he has managed important projects for clients like LOFT, Nike, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Honda, Anheuser-Busch, Sony Pictures, Disney, Microsoft, HP, the Library of Congress and others.