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10 Ways To Get Users On The Social Business Bus

Without proof points and support, end users can easily stall your social business plans.

5 New LinkedIn Tools
5 New LinkedIn Tools
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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."

[ Do you encourage your employees to do after-hours social media marketing? Read How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors. ]

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."

5. Identify enthusiasts. Enthusiasm for social networking technology can be contagious, and social business success begets social business success. It is therefore critical to identify the social business enthusiasts in your midst and to give them wide berth to do their thing and show their stuff. "Another thing we've done is to try to push against open doors -- and by that I mean start with parts of the population who have a natural tendency to use these kinds of new work methods and engage the executives and other rock stars in the organization," said IBM's McCarty.

6. Trumpet social successes. As employees begin to expand their use of social business tools, be sure to call out their successes. Where should you do this? Where else? On the company's internal, and in some cases external, social channels. This will create a kind of positive Catch 22. "Trumpet successes with social as a way to model new behaviors and practices," said McCarty.

7. Make it a job requirement. Of course, people tend to care a lot more about something if their jobs depend on it. You need to tread carefully here -- you don't want employees feeling forced. However, it is a good idea to incorporate specific mention of "effective use of social business tools" -- or something to that effect -- into the communications section of employee evaluations.

8. Measure so it matters. Speaking of evaluations, you need to be sure that you are evaluating what is and is not working with your social business initiative, and that you are sharing that data with employees. Only then will they be able to understand what moves the needle and how their role is related.

Key here is understanding that social business metrics may look different than traditional business metrics. "It's not a secret that social media requires different success metrics than traditional marketing programs like email or direct marketing," said Actiance's Carter. "Measuring clicks is not the same as measuring engagement, and the importance is on the message and exposure of that message rather than the number of likes on a page. Companies will need to define and track against metrics that show how connected a brand and individuals are to their networks and whether followers are sharing messages and content."

9. Be patient. Employees will not become experts, or converts, overnight. For many employees, social networking is a huge cultural shift. The willingness and effectiveness with which they use social business tools depends on age, experience, whether someone is an introvert or an extrovert and a host of other issues. Organizations need to let their employees know that social business is critical to growth and competitiveness, and that its use is not optional. But they also need to acknowledge the scope of the change and let employees know that they are willing to be patient and expect some missteps along the way.

10. Listen and learn. Those missteps we just mentioned? They will happen; it's almost guaranteed. The important thing is that you give employees a forum for reporting what's gone wrong and why, and that you then use that information to make changes for the better.

How is social business technology being received at your organization? What are some best practices for smoothing the path? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

Social business isn't just about connecting employees and customers to "collaborate better" wherever they are, from whatever device. It's about delivering real value to businesses, to the tune of $1.3 trillion annually. In this E2 webcast, How Social Business Drives Value, you’ll see how Thomson Reuters, a multinational media and information firm based in New York City, rolled out a social intranet to its 60,000 employees for driving innovation, aligning everyone to the company strategy, and generating more revenue. It happens April 30. (Free registration required.)

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