Non technical aspects of social

Social is a very hot topic at present. With the new social features of SharePoint 2013 and social products such as Yammer and NewsGator, there is a lot of buzz about how these technologies can be used within an enterprise to be social.

There are very clear benefits of implementing social technologies within an enterprise. For example, the 2012 McKinsey report, “The social economy: unlocking value and productivity through social technologies” shows:

  • A potential 20-25% improvement possible in knowledge worker productivity;
  • $900 billion - $1.3 trillion annual value that can be unlocked by social technologies in four sectors; and
  • 2x better potential value for better enterprise communication and collaboration.

However, simply implementing any technology will not automatically make an enterprise social and return benefits. Technology is an enabler, but there are a number of other elements that need to be in place to successfully realise business value. Start by evaluating business goals and matching them to what social tools can provide your organisation. This guide is a good start.

Then take a critical look at these key areas in your organisation and think about how they affect your social implementation. “Going social” isn’t enough. Not all businesses or goals are the same. Not all social tools are the same. No implementation is the same. Be honest. Transparency begins here.


A key factor in the success of implementing a social technology is the organisational culture. If the existing culture is closed and there is a “command and control” leadership model, a social technology implementation will struggle to be successful, regardless of how much money and effort is put into implementing it.

In his book Socialized!, Mark Fidelman provides an overview of five corporate culture types along with a short survey of questions that can be used to determine the existing culture. Which type are you? How can social support your organisation? How might your organisation need to change to get the most out of “going social”?

As part of any project to implement a social platform, the team must first identify the existing culture to determine whether to proceed with the implementation and to identify the additional work required beyond the actual technical implementation of a social platform.

Sponsorship and Leadership

Like any high visibility implementation, a social platform requires sponsorship and leadership. Sponsorship is commonly associated with a senior executive (or executives), but the sponsorship and leadership required extends to other areas within an organisation including line-of-business management.

From the Harvard Business Review report entitled “The Power of Small Wins” by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, they identified within their study that managers often remove meaning from the work their staff do, such as:

  • Dismissing the importance of an employees’ work or ideas;
  • Destroying the employee’s sense of ownership; and
  • Sending the message that an employee’s work will never see the light of day.

For a social implementation to be successful, senior executive and management at all levels must fully support and encourage staff to own and use the social platform. If management continues to remove meaning, implementing a social technology platform will not provide optimal benefit over existing work practices.


To deliver true business value and to help with user adoption of a new technology, it must be easy for staff within an organisation to understand the reasons why they should use this new technology and change the way they work.

Aligning the use of a social platform with elements of the organisation’s strategic corporate plan can help achieve two things. Firstly, the users will clearly understand why they are changing the way they are used to working. Secondly, aligning with the corporate plan can lead to increased awareness and encourage staff to look at how other changes in the way they work can help deliver other elements of the corporate plan.


To understand whether social is making a difference, you first need to have benchmarks. Know where you start and know what you want to measure after your social implementation, otherwise, you have no means to measure whether social is helping or making things worse. For instance, if one of your objectives is to improve customer satisfaction, you must be tracking data and information about customer satisfaction before introducing social.


Social can be a very difficult subject to talk to executive and management about.

References to “Facebook for the Enterprise” have tainted the perception of how social technologies could be misused within an organisation. Executives are left with the illusion that social within an organisation will only be used to share jokes and videos.

In reality, studies have shown that even in a non-moderated implementation of a social network, informal talk is limited. In a study called “S.O.C.I.A.L. - Emergent Enterprise Social Networking Use Cases” by Kai Riemer and Alexander Richter, a review of a social network at National Australia Bank has less than 6% informal talk. 25% of the traffic relates to problem solving or providing input to help others. Discussion and opinion sees the highest use at 38%. Social praise accounts for 13%.

Implementing a limited trial within your organisation, with a clear purpose that can be monitored and measured, will allow you to gain a clearer understanding of the work needed for a broader implementation.

A trial will also provide relevant examples that can be used to illustrate the business value and benefits in the context of your own organisation.


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