Without proof points and support, end users can easily stall your social business plans.
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Social business technology has the potential to increase revenue, cut costs, improve relationships with customers and enhance internal and external collaboration. If you're willing to make the commitment to best-practice implementation of social products, there's just one thing that can get in your way: your employees. In other words, if you build it, they may not come. And if they don't come -- or don't fully or enthusiastically participate -- your social business initiative doesn't really stand a chance.
Here are 10 ways to ensure that employees get on the social business bus.
1. Don't create more work.
If employees feel like you are adding another hoop for them to jump through, they are going to be understandably reluctant and maybe even resentful. Social business technology and processes should be integrated into the existing employee experience, not implemented as a separate (and perhaps redundant) pathway. "For us, this meant building social right into the front of our intranet and then pervasively throughout the digital workplace," Ethan McCarty, IBM's director of social and digital strategy, told InformationWeek. "Social shouldn't mean adding more work for your employees; it should make their jobs better."
Chris Miller, CIO at managed service provider Avanade, said that the technology is evolving in a way that supports this. "In the first iterations of enterprise social networking, the capabilities were often in stand-alone silos where participation was optional," said Miller. "The real benefit to the individual wasn't in contributing, but in leveraging the contributions of those around them. As the capabilities become more integrated into business processes and become more mainstream, the expectations of involvement are increasing."
2. Show them the money.
It's hard to argue with cold, hard facts -- especially when cold, hard facts relate to cold, hard cash.
"It's crucial to educate naysayers on how social can be tied to ROI -- both internally and externally," said Karen Feder, online marketing manager at Webtrends, a digital intelligence company. "The key is to show tangible evidence using examples of how other organizations are using and have used social media successfully."
3. Make it personal.
It's important to provide metrics on how the embrace of social business can help the company, but let's face it: We all want to know what's in it for me. To help get employees on board, let them know how social can make their jobs easier and provide new opportunities for them to hone their personal brands.
"Showing employees how these new social tools will help them do their jobs more efficiently enables them in the long run," said IBM's McCarty. "We have used a lot of role-specific case studies showing, for example, how a sales person can use social to improve their work.
4. Provide training.
Some of your employees will have grown up on Facebook and Twitter, and for them, social business will make total sense. At the other extreme, some employees will have never Liked, or Tweeted, or +1'ed a day in their lives.
All users, regardless of their experience with social networking, will need some training -- both to protect the organization and to make employees feel more savvy about (and comfortable with) the use of social networking technology. For example, just because a user knows how to update his LinkedIn presence doesn't mean he will know what he can and cannot do and say in the context of your organization's industry, its culture and the user's specific role.
"It is key to have new users attending proper training classes so that they can understand the appropriate social media etiquette before logging in, understand and agree to corporate guidelines of usage and make sure that they are comfortable with the action plans for handling positive and negative sentiment," said Feder.
This kind of training should relate to social networking as a whole, but also to specific platforms, according to Sarah Carter, general manager of social media and compliance at Actiance, a vendor of social media management products and services. "To successfully achieve ROI and scale social, every stakeholder in the organization needs to be educated on the best practices of social," she said. "The education program should explain the importance of social, the specific company policy, the objectives of the company, how social works and why it matters to both the corporate brand and the personal brand. Each channel -- for example, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter -- should also be explored to gain insight into their individual requirements."