This post was updated 08.11.16

I’ve previously written on the characteristics of mature approaches to enterprise social networks – those that we see driving real transformation in business.

But to reach these levels of transformation, companies have to start from solid foundations, and in this article, I will focus on these basics – the components of a foundation needed to build more advanced programmes.

Based upon our client work, we have split these components into two areas: those elements that focus on people; and, those that focus on the technology. It will come as no surprise that the majority of user adoption strategies and tactics are focused on the people, rather than the technology!

People-focused components

1) Change agent networks

More important than a central team is stimulating a network of enthusiastic, driven individuals who champion and embody change, challenge the status quo, share good practice around the organisation and spread stories of success.

Malcolm Gladwell describes their role in his book Tipping Point“the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.”

2) Guiding coalition

A guiding coalition is usually made up of a diverse range of stakeholders from across the enterprise, and can help overcome existing divisions that often exist between HR, IT, marketing, operations and other key departments who should have a role in digital transformation.

They can help push forward an adoption campaign with the speed and momentum needed for success. External advisors can also sometimes make valuable members of a coalition, sharing good practice and subject matter expertise to highlight organisational blind spots.

3) Community management

Community management is often a point of tension in early discussions concerning the adoption of enterprise social networks, as it involves either additional headcount or a reassignment of existing resources; but it is a powerful force multiplier for adoption effort. In fact, evidence from organisations such as Bosch and Continental indicates that community management is crucial to a serious programme of digital transformation.

For organisations unable to commit full-time resources to community management, creating a centre of excellence or adopting a community management as-a-service model can provide both value to the business, and evidential support for a longer term business case.

4) Content & context

Creating compelling content that engages sceptics and naysayers alike is only one part of the recipe for success.

Providing context for the content is the important second part. Creating coherent communities that are easy to understand for users, signposting key resources and encouraging engagement rather than simple, short bursts of attention can all help user adoption.

5) Motivation & incentives

Social platforms have many motivational and incentives based features baked right in nowadays – from badges, ranking tables and nudges to gradually completed user profiles.But these do not really address the underlying ways in which social systems can tap into peoples’ intrinsic motivations to improve themselves and the business.

For a good overview of motivational design for social systems try reading some of Davide ‘Folletto’ Casali’s work on the subject.

Technology focused components

6) User experience

With much of the original impetus for social platforms inside the enterprise coming from commercial social media platforms, user experience has been a key tenet of the enterprise 2.0 movement.

However, it is also clear from a brief review of the current enterprise social platforms, such as Jive, IBM Connections and Office 365, that the out-of-the-box user experience is far from ideal – even if at first glance they look ok, when you start trying to implement real use cases, the experience starts to degrade. This is an important area of focus if you want a social platform to become a widely used work tool.

7) Tech landscape & integration

With the technical landscape of organisations becoming more and more fragmented, social platforms offer an opportunity to create a hub for integrating and simplifying the picture for employees.

With more and more social tools launching all the time, making clear decisions about integrations, and working towards a clear platform strategy, can be important. The new, fast-growing collaboration tool Slack offers an interesting insight into the popularity of simple social tools that offer easy API-based integrations, allowing people to quickly build a rich interaction experience. Right now it is streets ahead of the incumbent social collaboration platform and ESN vendors.

8) Data & visualisation

Social platforms generate lots of rich data – not only from conversations, but also from the networks created, profiles, community structures and other signposting. Surfacing other data sources through a social platform can provide an alternative to the need to deeply integrate platforms – socialising customer relationship data for example, can raise the quality of the data, raise the awareness of customer needs and bring the customers voice to a wider audience within the organisation. Showing all employees the data gathered in simple, visual reports can help to highlight areas that are succeeding well, and those who may need alternative adoption tactics to flourish.

Further reading