Starting Your Social Journey

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So you want to start on a social journey? What lies ahead of you and what are the ways that you need to prepare? It’s said that a journey begins with but a single step. In this series of five blog posts, we’ll be looking at what it takes to be on that journey. In this first post, I will lay three of the most important things to keep in mind as you take these first few steps.

#1: It’s a Journey – and it Requires Goals and a Plan

Make no mistake about it, social is not a quick fix, press-the button-and-it-all works technology. Even though we know this, far too often I see people implementing technologies like Yammer as if it were a magic wand – wave it and all will be well.

Any journey you take requires a destination and a map or plan of how to get there. There’s no one perfect path and you’ll like have to take a few detours to get there. So to that end, make sure that you set very clear goals for your social efforts (the destination) and then lay out a clear strategy on how to achieve those goals. Not having that plan of what you will do – and just as importantly, what you will not do – is a recipe for disaster (or at the very least, a lot of wandering around aimlessly.)

For example, many companies deploy an enterprise social network (ESN) without a clear idea of what they expect employees to get out of it, nor specific metrics that look at how it drives business value. At a minimum, be clear on how you expect the ESN to add value – is it simply to capture and share best practices? Is it for employees to find and connect with experts? The more specific you can be about the most important pain points you want to address as a goal, the more focused and useful your ESN will be.

We’ll be discussing more about how to create a coherent strategy in the second blog post in this series.

Social Journey hiking

#2: It’s about Relationships – Both Work and Personal

At its core, social is about relationships between people. We instinctively communicate, share and collaborate with each other in the context of relationships. At work, we engage in professional as well as personal relationships – there’s no doubt that the casual question, “How was your weekend?” leads to personal ties that smooth the way for professional work relationships.

And yet, many organizations frown upon or actively discourage the use of ESNs for personal use, partly because they fear it could become a productivity drain, and partly because they feel a valuable company resource should be use only for work purposes. I think this is a mistake because it diminishes our natural human tendencies to want to connect with each other on multiple levels – denying this part of our human nature doesn’t happen in the real-world workplace and it shouldn’t happen in the virtual one either.

But just as importantly, as you start this journey, you’ll need to define the new types of relationships that will be created and deepened in these new social arenas. Your organization will develop its own norms and practices – and it will be an extension of your current culture.

Like all relationships, this can get messy, especially for leaders and managers who will suddenly find their direct reports talking directly to people higher up in the organization chart. But this shouldn’t be a reason to not proceed – we’ll discuss in the third and fourth posts of this blog series how to make it clear to people throughout the organization chart what’s in it for them to participate in this new social community.

#3: You are What You Measure

In the end, what’s the purpose of going social? To succeed, you’ll need to tie your social efforts back to business goals that you are trying to achieve. The problem with most social efforts is that we measure it in terms of adoption and engagement – the number of employees using it, number of posts or comments.

One organization shared with me that executives made adoption of their ESN a priority, creating a competition that recognized people for having the most posts on the network within your team. An enterprising group of employees from across departments gathered together each morning into a pre-designated area to post and comment together – about where they were going to go for lunch that day. Each person led their department in terms of daily participation and engagement but obviously, no business value was being created.

From the start, you will need to close the loop back to your goals and strategy with the right metrics. The problem: those metrics are often anecdotal and survey-based, and don’t existing with your ESN’s administrative console. For example, if a key goal is to reduce the number of emails, you’ll need to take extra steps to benchmark the number of emails sent around a particular topic before and after the deployment of your ESN. The last blog post in this series will take a closer look at how you can create a measurement framework for your social efforts.

In summary, taking the dive into social can create not only a unique and compelling new way to work, but also drive tremendous business value. But to be effective at it, you’ll need to carefully plan out the coming journey and make sure you have the strategy, tactics, and metrics to make sure that you reach your goal.

For more tips of how to start your social journey, check out our comprehensive launch plan.