Five Tips for Driving Social Media Adoption in the Enterprise

It’s been a year since ReadWriteWeb announced “‘the honeymoon period’ for social media in the enterprise is coming to an end” and warning enterprises to get their arms around a social media policy. There is no question that 2010 saw unprecedented growth in social media in the enterprise and has changed the way work is done. Indeed, companies that failed to get on board soon found that employees were going social without their corporate masters. Where I work, a social media steering committee was formed bringing together corporate marketing, high profile employee bloggers and evangelists, employee communications, Legal, HR and IT.

This year, with their freshly-minted social media policies in place, enterprises seem to be focusing on building a collaborative culture and driving adoption.

I can write from personal experience that driving adoption of social in the enterprise is challenging on many levels. Legal and HR departments have several requirements to be met in areas like eDisovery and employee privacy. HR likely also has additional requirements concerning employee development and recognition. Building and/or implementing social enterprise solutions also takes buy-in and resources from IT – not a forgone conclusion in the current climate of budget constraints and competing priorities for IT spend. Social media is cross-firewall by nature and that comes with another set of IT security concerns.

Once the groundwork has been laid, one faces the ultimate challenge of getting employees to embrace and use the solutions implemented. Typically, there will be a relatively small group of early adopters. Often, there is also an initial burst of interest and activity, followed by a slow decline. So where does one go from there?

Here are 5 tips I’ve used that have proven successful the driving adoption of social media where I work:

  1. Redundancy is your friend. A great place to start innovating in enterprise social media is by replacing legacy systems like a company directory with a new and socially-savvy solution. By leaving the redundant system in place while launching the new “pilot” system you allow for a gradual adoption path. This also gives you the freedom to experiment with the new system and fine-tune it based on user input.
  2. Provide a better tool and they will come. Social collaboration is already going on in your enterprise. People are likely making do with whatever technology they can find to do the job done. A great example of this is an email distribution list, where knowledge is exchanged. Study the usage patterns and behavior and provide a superior solution and user experience.
  3. Reward the early adopters. Get to know your early adopters, listen carefully to them and try give them what they want. After all, they are the best catalysts for driving adoption you’ve got.
  4. Bridge the firewall. Employees lead lives inside and outside the firewall and have identities that go beyond their job title and responsibilities. Giving employees a voluntary way to include information about their external blog site, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and other social accounts along with their company-related data will encourage internal adoption. Also, solutions implemented behind the firewall are far more appealing and effective if they work seamlessly outside the enterprise.
  5. Keep communicating. You’ll go a long way to ensuring success if keep repeating the message of what you are trying to achieve and how. Leverage employee communications, give luncheon brown-bag talks, shoot a video, blog. Get the word out and give people a way to respond.

Why It’s All About Me-Casting

The rise of social media on the web has been nothing short of meteoric. At the forefront of this movement are services like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr – to name only a few. While the medium and purpose for each of these may differ, they all enable the sharing of information about yourself with others. That so many people voluntarily do this is telling; clearly there is an urge in us to get the message out on who we are, what we are doing, and what we think and create. Coupled with this urge is a desire to keep the information we share current with the aim of remaining relevant to others. This act of sharing ongoing personal data via any online distributed medium I refer to as mecasting (think: “me-casting”).

Perhaps the most disruptive gifts technology brings are immediacy and the ability to democratize communication. We instinctively choose the real and live over the contrived and reproduced – that’s why Facebook is growing at the cost of broadcast TV. Indeed, TV networks themselves are increasingly turning to live reality shows to maintain audience. Jerry Springer has proved people would rather watch a real life soap opera than a Hollywood recreation. While broadcast will never die, it’s about to find itself in a popularity contest with its twin, mecast.

As online technologies merge, mecasting becomes more unified and immersive, allowing the creation of a personal brand. As networks improve, real-time video streams become more common. As hardware becomes wearware, the ability to share first person experiences becomes easier. Would you rather read a text status update on Facebook that says I am hang gliding or watch a live stream of it actually occurring? Ultimately, mecasting allows a person to share his or her life as it is being lived in real time with anyone they choose. After all, whose got time to edit video?

Make no mistake, mecasting is already here and growing rapidly. Teens will drive its growth and I predict we are in for a mind-bending change in culture that rivals that of the 1960’s. Individuals will effectively own their own TV stations and schedule programming at will, restricting content to a specified group of individual or making available for the whole world to see. Like broadcast TV, most mecasting will not be worth watching.

But the mecasting worth watching will change the world.

Get Ready for Enterprise Video

If you’re an IT innovator, you’ve probably been ready for enterprise video for awhile now. If you work in a large business, you’ve likely seen an enterprise video – any taped corporate event technically counts. If you haven’t heard of enterprise video, it should be in touch with your company shorty.

It’s no coincidence an article written by Lucy Kellaway on enterprise video made The Economist‘s Business section of The World in 2011. The article heralds 2011 as the year that “companies begin to say goodbye to the written word. The basic unit of communication will no longer be sent out in emails. It will be shot in pictures and shown on video.” I say, “Hallelujah, sister Lucy. Amen!”.

Savvy HR departments are likewise developing a keen interest in enterprise video, having figured out the next generation of corporate leaders likely don’t tweet, preferring instead the richer media experience of Facebook. The argument goes that strong companies need strong leaders, who by necessity must be strong communicators in new media. This should be a wake up call for a generation of aspiring storytellers and performers who ended up cashing in an adolescent dream for a job in middle management. This is their opportunity to lose because charisma and showmanship are now critical in selling a corporate vision to staff.

It should come as no surprise then, that enterprise video plays a big role in my work this year, where one of my top projects is building a proof of concept enterprise tv service much like YouTube, but inside the company firewall. The project goes beyond the dissemination of corporate propaganda, allowing employees to upload and share encrypted video content freely.

The implications of enterprise video are wide ranging and disruptive to a corporation, affecting corporate development, brand, productivity, IT infrastructure, employee communications and ultimately leadership. It should be an interesting year, indeed.

I’m ready.