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Social Business: Slow And Steady Worked For Philips

Social business success isn't impossible. Philips shares five best practices that helped grow its enterprise social network from 400 to 50,000 users.

Social business success doesn't happen overnight -- a valuable lesson that Dennis Agusi says more companies need to understand.

Four years ago, Agusi spearheaded the deployment of Socialcast's enterprise social platform at Royal Philips Electronics, a healthcare, lifestyle, and lighting business. The company, which prides itself on innovation, needed a better way to connect its 120,000 global employees and improve collaboration.

Over the last four years, the company's network, called Philips Community, has grown to more than 50,000 users. Employees log on to find information faster, exchange ideas, and ask questions -- 54% percent of which are answered within one hour and 92% of which are answered within 24 hours. These adoption numbers and engagement rates didn't come easy -- or quickly -- but they validate the company's perseverance, Agusi said.

[Social business success stems from groups. Read Social Business: Why Group Adoption Matters.]

Philips' social business success is unusual by all measures. According to Gartner, 80% of social business efforts will fail due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology. But while the odds are stacked against most companies evolving into a social organization, Agusi, internal communications manager at Philips, says that achieving social business success is not impossible.

"What often happens is that companies simply provide the infrastructure and offer the enterprise social network believing that employees will run with it themselves," he said. "We took a different approach and looked at it from a holistic point of view to develop a digital internal communications strategy to support us in this social business journey."

Philips shared with InformationWeek five best practices that helped it achieve impressive adoption rates and engagement numbers. Here's how it launched the platform, cultivated its communities, and iterated along the way.

1. Build a small, but active community first.
Reaching critical mass for enterprise social network adoption is crucial, Agusi said. But to get there, you need to start small, focus on making the community active and engaging, then work to grow your numbers.

Philips created a pilot community first and invited the company's strongest social media proponents to join it.

"We focused on employees who were already using tools like Yammer, plus our communications and marketing employees," Agusi said. "To create ownership across this group we asked them to come up with a name for the community. When you co-create the name together, you see

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Kristin Burnham currently serves as's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

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Justin Belmont
Justin Belmont,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/25/2014 | 11:02:55 PM
Re: SAS and Socialcast
Great tips. Social business can be a tricky business to master, but it's definitely possible, and these are great and concrete tips to help newer companies get started. Thanks for sharing!
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
5/21/2014 | 11:47:50 AM
SAS and Socialcast
I reported a couple of years ago on the use of Socialcast at SAS Institute and found it to be going strong when I checked in for an update to include in my Social Collaboration for Dummies book. The Socialcast product never got as much hype as some competitiors, and now there seems to be a lull in interest in social intranet platforms in general, but as noted here the secret to success was never just buying and installing a software product (or subscribing to a cloud service). It's not the platform's ability to share, collect, and collaborate that's most important -- it's the motivation and the leadership of the people in the organization to create a collaborative culture and use the tools as an enabler. That doesn't mean software choice is not important, but there are probably several products and services for every need.

I suggest focusing more on the limitations of the platform and making sure it won't hold you back. Once you clear that hurdle, take your choice and really run with it. Your momentum and commitment will make the biggest difference.
Kristin Burnham
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
5/20/2014 | 2:05:03 PM
How long to sink or swim?
How long has it taken your company to either reach critical mass in or abandon your enterprise social network? What contributed to your success or failure? Let's hear your experiences.
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